These photos of kitchens around the world say more than words ever could.
Every kitchen tells a story. From Latin America to Asia and Africa, these intimate images captured by Compassion’s photojournalists show the remarkable ways that families — usually women or children — cook their food, gather with loved ones to eat it, and organize their kitchens.
As you look at these photos of kitchens, you’ll no doubt marvel at how different they are from your own kitchen. In some cases, those differences are simply cultural. That is, cultures have their own unique traditions and methods of preparing food that have served their people for centuries.
But in other cases, the differences between most kitchens in developed countries and the kitchens in the photos are not only cultural, but also a result of poverty. All the families you’ll meet in these photos live in poverty and receive assistance in Compassion’s program. Many of them have makeshift kitchens put together with any materials they could find or were given.
No matter the reason for the differences, all these photos of kitchens around the world show the ingenuity, adaptability and diversity of humankind. And from each kitchen comes a unique story of the family who cooks, gathers and cleans there.
Abdoul adds corn flour to a meal that his sister, Adèle, is cooking in their outdoor kitchen. They cook over coals on a simple stove outside their home in Burkina Faso. The food they’re cooking was provided by the staff from Adèle’s Compassion center, who learned that the family had run out of food during the country’s COVID-19 quarantine.
The support of the center came in at the right timing as the divine answer to my prayers, and I am very happy that my family can enjoy at least two meals a day.”Adèle, a 19-year-old in Compassion’s program in Burkina Faso
Leydy, 8, helps her mother cook vegetables in the kitchen of their home in Ecuador. Corn is one of the family’s staple foods, and their home has rows of colorful husks hanging from the ceiling. As is typical in developing countries, the kitchen shares a common space with the living and sleeping areas.
This is the kitchen where Elianora cooks for her seven children and her husband in rural Indonesia. Her husband works as a farmer for a local landowner. When there’s not enough work on the farm, he looks for construction jobs in their village to avoid the heartbreak of seeing his children go to bed hungry.
We try our best to feed our children so they never skip any meals.”Elianora, a mother in Compassion’s Survival Program
A classic breakfast for 8-year-old Enan’s family in Peru is bread with smoked plantains, which Enan is preparing over a wood fire in their kitchen. Enan and his family live in a jungle region and grow their own food. So their diet consists mostly of plantains, mangoes and papayas — as well as occasional meat from chickens and pigs.
The Dominican Republic
Yosaira, 9, shares a bedroom with her sister — and with the family’s kitchen in the Dominican Republic. This is where Yosaira and her family cook warm meals when they can afford charcoal to light their stove. Before joining Compassion’s program, Yosaira and her sister were malnourished. Now they are getting enough nutritious food to eat and are growing stronger.
In the windy, high plateau region of Bolivia, 11-year-old Abel and his grandmother prepare their kitchen’s clay stoves. Abel blows on the fire gently to stoke it before cooking potatoes and eggs over the heat. A food-related tradition in Abel’s region is the “apthapi,” which means “pick of the harvest.” That’s when Abel’s family will invite other families to join them for a communal meal of food they have cultivated.
Lelliane, 9, helps her mother keep their kitchen tidy in northeastern Brazil. They hang pots and pans from the clay walls to save space in their home, which Lelliane shares with her parents and four siblings. The home has electricity but no running water, so Lelliane washes dishes in pans of water outside.
BONUS FOR KIDS: Learn more about Lelliane’s life in northeastern Brazil!
Suku holds her toddler, Prodip, while cooking in her kitchen in Bangladesh. With no electricity in the home, Suku relies on the fire pit to cook her daily meal. While pollutants in indoor kitchens around the world pose serious health threats, the World Health Organization estimates that 3 billion people worldwide cook inside with fire pits or simple stoves — often because they lack electricity.
Moses, 19, roasts peanuts in his kitchen in Tanzania. Just after Moses began vocational school to work toward becoming an electrician, the school closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So the enterprising teenager began roasting peanuts to sell for an income. He’s saving as much money as he can in anticipation of his school reopening soon.
Photos of kitchens around the world by Ben Adams, David Adhikary, Chuck Bigger, Eric D. Lema, Yrahisa Mateo, Galia Oropeza, Jehojakim Sangare and Ana Santos.