Journeys way off the beaten path, and the power of everyday people.


Kris Dreessen is an award-winning journalist and photographer and travel addict who specializes in feature, documentary and nature and travel journalism. She likes to learn about other cultures and to share the uniqueness we find in exotic places as well as in our own backyards.

She caught the wanderlust when she spent a year in former West Germany when she was 17. She has since traveled to more than 20 countries and around the United States, usually solo and with more film and memory cards than cash. She has lived in Germany, Brazil, Ireland, Philadelphia, and sunny St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

As an outdoors writer, editor and photographer for an upstate New York newspaper chain, her writing earned 11 state newspaper-writing awards. Her writing, photography and concept design as editor of the SUNY Geneseo Scene magazine has earned seven industry regional and state awards.

As an instructor at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education's Community Darkroom, she introduced students to photojournalism. She is a freelance photographer and writer, and was the Amazon contributor for the new Viva Travel Guide: Peru. Her images and writing have appeared in newspapers, “Women’s Adventure," tattoo publications, Native American journals, travel guides and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

In 2006, she created The Friends Project to give back for all the inspiration she has received while on the road. The grassroots travel charity funds small improvement projects in developing countries that are driven by residents' priorities, such as the installation of window screens and provision of bleach tablets and buckets to teach residents how to sanitize drinking water in the remote community of Nueva Esperanza in the Peruvian Amazon.

Most recently, The Friends Project helped raise more than $11,000 to build the first school in Las Minitas, a mountain community near El Sauce, Nicaragua, whose families lobbied the government for a permanent elementary teacher. Kids were walking up to an hour and a half to attend classes. The project has also helped an eco-tourism cooperative in El Sauce, Nicaragua build a well, and provided women artisans of El Sauce the opportunity to complete an intensive training program so they can create intricate and colorful baskets made from pine needles they collect near their mountain homes. They now fetch higher prices for them in tourism markets and have reached small U.S. markets. Income helps them support their families. The do-it-yourself initiative is also currently funding English classes for community cooperative members and teens in El Sauce, microloans for individuals, and scholarships for students to attend high school.

Started in 2011, The Friends Photo Project puts the cameras in the hands of El Sauce teens, who are docoumenting and sharing photos of their lives via their online gallery.

Find out more about The Friends Project work and most recent photo initiative in El Sauce on Facebook or the website.