Brookings photographer fighting childhood hunger


Courtesy photos: Above, Hossam Halaweish snaps a shot that will be turned into a high-quality print for his “Portraits for a Purpose” project, from which he has donated $1,150 to “Feed the Children.” It’s his way of raising money for COVID-19 relief. Below, Halaweish shows off the Thank You receipts for $1,150 donated to “Feed the Children.” Each of the receipts honors someone in whose name he donated money he earned shooting their portraits.

Pre-med student raising funds for COVID-19 relief

BROOKINGS – “It’s a chaotic and stressful time. Our neighbors need us now more than ever. COVID-19 is creating new needs while putting enormous financial pressure on all nonprofits.” 

With those concerns in mind, Brookings resident Hossam Halaweish, 20, has launched “Portraits for a Purpose.”

“Following social-distancing guidelines, I have been taking portraits and donating all my proceeds to ‘Feed the Children’ and their COVID-19 response,” explained Halaweish. 

He chose Feed the Children because it’s “a non-profit organization focused on alleviating childhood hunger. They mostly focus outside the United States, but they do a lot of work in other countries.” 

The nonprofit’s mission is “providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials.”

An Eagle Scout and 2018 graduate of Brookings High School, where he was on the South Dakota high school all-state soccer team, participated in track and field and was active in HOSA (Future Health Professionals, formerly Health Occupation Students of America). Halaweish is presently a third-year student at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) majoring in biology with “a dream of going to med school.”

He took a high school class in photography and shot a lot of nature and landscape photos before shifting his focus to portraits of people: including individuals, families, graduations and couples. And as he got into portrait photography, he came to appreciate the many backgrounds that Brookings provides as settings for portraits.

“Downtown is really a gold mine,” Halaweish said. “I didn’t realize how pretty downtown actually was until I stepped back and saw it from a different perspective.” 

And he found Brookings’ parks “crucial for my pictures.”

He would visit a park before a scheduled photo shoot and get a feel for the setting. Then on the day of the shoot, he would arrive a half hour early and decide where to take his photos. He’ll use at least two locations and shoot five or six pictures. He posts a lot of his photos online: he’s got a Facebook page and he’s also developing a website.

Blessings in Brookings

The genesis of Halaweish’s project was the big-picture impact of the pandemic, where he fit into it and how he could make an impact.

“Growing up in Brookings, I was blessed with a community that taught me so much and welcomed me and my family from the start,” he explained. 

He added that when the pandemic started to heat up in April and May, “I began to realize, wow, I’m not the only one going through hard times.” 

Many people were suffering, and he was fortunate. 

“Really, I’m blessed,” Halaweish said. “I have nothing to worry about. I don’t have to worry about day to day or a paycheck. I’m blessed to live under my dad’s roof. I have enough food to eat. It’s so much a privilege. There’s so many other people that suffer.” 

And he “appreciates how generous the Brookings community is.”

Portraits honor people photographed

Halaweish is also blessed in that his charitable project of taking photos is also something he really enjoys – and his subjects enjoy having their portrait taken.

“I also feel like I’m actually contributing something for the community and not just sitting by waiting for everything to blow over,” he said.

Some of his subjects have never had a professional portrait taken. “It’s really a great experience,” he explained. “They’ll have that memory to commemorate what they did, the money they donated.”

Shooting photos with his OLYMPUS OM-D Mark II, a high school graduation gift, Halaweish turns out high-quality portrait prints; he usually shoots five or six pictures at two locations. His subjects then select the shots they like. 

The money they pay him he then donates to Feed the Children, crediting the people whose portraits he has taken and citing the donations are made in their honor. To date it amounts to $1,150.

Find Halaweish’s work online at, or email him at [email protected].

Contact John Kubal at [email protected].