Glendale Adventist Academy High School student A.J. Martinson knew little about podoconiosis before he stepped off a plane in Ethiopia in November 2008.
But there in front of him were the grotesquely swollen feet, the primary symptom of the disease that has infected about 1 million of the nation's poor.
He was accompanying his cousin, Dr. Larry Thomas, co-founder of Tropical Health Foundation Alliance, who has traveled to rural portions of Ethiopia repeatedly for more than a decade to provide health care to underserved communities.
"The poverty is just intense over there," A.J. said. "There are sick people, and literally dead people in the middle of the road."
Despite the shock, A.J. set about putting his longtime passion for cinematography to use, filming hours and hours of video footage on a small camcorder. He returned to Southern California two weeks later and set aside his work.