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Only on AP: Heartrending images capture children across the globe who lost parents to COVID

Tshimologo Bonolo, 8, poses for a photograph at her house in Soweto, South Africa, Saturday, June 26, 2021. She lost her father to COVID-19 in July 2020, and is now looked after by her mother and her grandmother. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

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Rarely does AP’s Best of the Week award go to an editor. But this week — a particularly strong one for AP with multiple exclusives that could have won on most weeks — the honor is truly deserved by New York-based Top Stories Hub photo editor Alyssa Goodman. Goodman was the driving force behind “Kids Left Behind,” an extraordinarily moving photo package that takes an intimate look at children who have lost parents to the pandemic.

The project,which moved several days after the world topped 4 million dead,was the brainchild of Goodman and New Delhi-based chief photographer Manish Swarup. Goodman worked with photographers around the globe to find many of the subjects, then get permission to photograph and interview them — no easy feat when children are involved.

And what stories they found. An 8-year-old girl in Soweto,South Africa,pining for the father she lost to the disease,a 10-year old in India who lost both parents in a matter of weeks,a young family in the Philippines that has fallen on hard times since husband and father Arthur Navales died in April and a California 13-year-old performing the song she composed for her father’s funeral,on the guitar he gave her for Christmas,days before he died.

Goodman developed a style for the images and coordinated with the photographers to make portraits of the young subjects in a cohesive fashion. Those photographers included Swarup; Natacha Pisarenko,based in Buenos Aires; Jerome Delay,Johannesburg; Thanassis Stavrakis,Athens; Anupam Nath,New Delhi; Esteban Felix,Santiago,Chile; Mary Altaffer,New York; Aaron Favila,Manila; and Jae Hong,Los Angeles,all of whom delivered stirring images. Once the photos were in,Goodman displayed the work — including poignant text by Rome correspondent Nicole Winfield — in a thoughtful, engaging presentation.

The result was one of the most compelling packages AP has done in recent years. Almost everyone who has spent time with it has been moved to tears,and the images have had impact beyond the websites and newspapers that have featured them. A Philippines Taekwondo instructor saw the Navales children featured in the package and phoned the photographer to see if he could help them. The coach had not known that their father had passed away until he saw the AP gallery. Starting right away,the instructor promised to take the children on as Taekwondo students in his class free of charge until they reach blackbelt. It had been Arthur Navales’ dream.

For generating an inspired and challenging project,handling it with sensitivity and tenaciously seeing it through in collaboration with global colleagues, Alyssa Goodman wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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