Young Heroes

Dan Eldon

by Isabel Luu from San Diego, California in United States

121439Eldon's“The key to heroism is a concern for other people in need—a concern to defend a moral cause, knowing there is a personal risk, done without expectation of reward” (Zimbardo 6). According to Zimbardo, heroism is not only measured by the number of lives the hero saves, or the size of the movements the hero created; heroism is “a concern for others in need” regardless the scale of impact. A hero can be a courageous teenager who stands against the bully in a sea of cowards, or a homeless individual giving a stranded family money for gas. The courage and determination to make a difference for those in need despite a personal risk nor expectation of reward is what defines a heroic action. 

121452Dan Eldondaneldon.orgPhoto-journalist and global activist Dan Eldon found his purpose early in life: to make a difference in the world. Although many people consider this to be cliche, he passionately believed in this purpose. Dan Eldon cared deeply, risked his life, and ultimately lost his life to document and aid those struggling with war and famine in Africa (Bamsey). He was only twenty-two when he lost his life while reporting on the Somali Civil War in 1993. Dan Eldon consciously made the decision to help change hundreds of lives, and his legacy continues to inspire many more. He grew up in Nairobi, Kenya with a journalist mother who exposed him to many social activists. These experiences influenced Dan to take action from an early age. At fourteen, Dan raised over $5000 for a little girl in Kenya who needed heart transplant surgery. At nineteen, he started a student-led organization to give blankets, food, and other necessities to war-torn countries such as Mozambique. At age twenty-one, he heard about a famine in Somalia and could not focus on anything else. He paused his education at UCLA and hopped on a plane. By photographing the horrors of the Somalia famine which spiraled into a civil war, Eldon brought awareness, sympathy, and donations to hundreds of thousands of people suffering in Somalia. Although he lived a short life, Eldon strove to make the world a better place by purposely taking action to save lives without expectation of reward. Dan Eldon inspired many because he courageously chose to enter harm’s way in order to help others in need and he was determined to use his photography skills to ignite positive changes.

121448Dan in

Despite his young age, Dan Eldon courageously devoted his time to help civilians in war-torn countries. When Dan Eldon witnessed the famine in Somalia which turned into a civil war, he did not retreat to safety. He expressed his motivation about helping Somalia: “Regular Somali folks are getting shot by soldiers, that should be news! If there is anything I can do to open people's eyes, I can see that’s the only thing I can think of to do.”(Eldon 00:56) Eldon did not run away when faced with war and danger. Instead, he ran in to photograph the horrors the locals endured. He willingly risked his life to expose the famine and civil strife in Somalia so that the world can come offer help. It took courage to take action in unfamiliar territory, surrounded by war and terror. But Dan stood his ground and extended his hand to those in need. While documenting his experience, “He was horrified by what he saw: scores of dead babies, skeletal children and starving adults. Dan's pictures were published in newspapers around the world and were among the first to expose this growing humanitarian crisis” (Tsai 20). Eldon saw many tragedies during his time in Somalia. He did not run, he courageously faced these horrible crises. Rather than be scarred by the tragic experiences he witnessed in those environments, he published his photos to bring awareness and help to those in war-torn areas. He created awareness so that people could not turn a blind eye to the tragic situation. Sympathy alone cannot result in making positive changes; Eldon made a conscious decision and took action to use his photography skills to help save hundreds. His photos were spread on Newsweek and The Times and brought shock to many. Dan Eldon displayed great acts of courage by devoting his time and risking his safety and ultimately his life, to make other’s lives better.

121453Another photo that showcased the harsh reality in Somalia.daneldon.org121444One of the photos Dan took that brought attention and awareness regarding the Somali Civil

121446In the mist of the Eldon’s determination to use photography to ignite change positively impacted many civilians of Somalia. He did so by spreading awareness and calling people to action to help a desperate humanitarian crisis. Eldon faced whatever was thrown his way in order to help: “Dan knew the risks... Once they entered the compound and began snapping pictures, an angry mob turned on them. Their cameras were met with stones, knives and fists, as enraged locals took out their anger on Dan and his friends”(Tsai 27). Eldon and three of his colleagues were brought to photograph a bombing at a compound by Somali people he knew and trusted. Yet the mob still turned on him as he tried to help them. The dangerous situation resulted in the mob unexpectedly attacking them. Even though a Somali civilian convoy attempted to protect Dan and his colleagues, they could not save them from the violent mob. Dan “knew the risks”, but his death remains an unimaginable tragedy. He was determined to help expose famine, war, and refused to let danger deter him. Eldon did not save the entire country from famine and despair, but he did make an impact on thousands of lives with his photographs. On July 12th, 1993, Dan Eldon spent the last moments of his life photographing a military raid. Shortly after Eldon’s death, his mother and sister created a website, which stated: “He used his passion for art and photography to build awareness and ignite positive action. His death was an unimaginable tragedy, but his legacy lives on”( 5). Dan Eldon gave his life to something bigger than himself. He and his family knew that he might not come back alive, but they still supported him and his choice of traveling to the war zone. Dan died for a passionate cause in which he believed. Because of his passion and skill for photography and spirit for encouraging change, Dan remains a legacy. His family carries on his legacy and spreads his message by making a movie on his life. His mother, Kathy stated: “I believe this film is truly a clarion call of connectivity and of bringing people together. And if we are connected to ourselves, our purpose, and our vision for what this world can be, and connect to one another, we can transform."(Bamsey 28) This film continues his legacy. It showcases his actions and inspire many to do the same. Eldon was not only outraged by the ways civilians from Somalia were being treated, but also alleviated some of their pain by getting close to the action to take photos in order to convince the world to help.

121445Connecting with localsdaneldon.orgThrough courage and determination, Dan Eldon managed to positively change hundreds of thousands of lives. He exhibited courageousness by heading into dangerous war zones to help refugees and was determined to draw attention to the harsh environments in which the impoverished lived. He was determined to publish his heartbreaking photos in order to bring awareness, sympathy, and donations. But most of all, his efforts to make the world a better place inspires many others to change the world. Dan Eldon proves to thousands of citizens, including myself, that age should not limit ambition: “Dan journaled about how people said he was too young to make a difference, to really help anyone, but he refused to give up, so he kept on getting closer and closer to the action” (Russell 3:40). Dan Eldon paused his classes at UCLA to help spread awareness about the Somalian war; had he not done that, he might still have his life. Many students his age choose to focus on their classes, making new friends, and partying. However, Eldon made a choice that took courage and determination. That choice helped bring attention to millions of civilians suffering in Somalia. In the end, he made more of an impact on the world at age twenty-two than most people do in a lifetime. He did not have the intention to stop the Somalian war, or save every civilian from death; however Eldon wanted to help as much as he could, even if he only changed one life. Despite his youth, Dan Eldon manifests kindness, passion, and awareness, illustrating that we can all potentially find the hero inside us. He inspires us that with open eyes we can potentially see the injustices of the world, and with determination, courage, and kindness, we can resolve them.

Works Cited

“About Dan Eldon.” The MY HERO Project,

“Dan Eldon Biography.” Dan Eldon, 9 Sept. 2016,

Eldon, Dan, and Kathy Eldon. The Journey Is the Destination: the Journals of Dan Eldon. Chronicle Books, 2017.

Tsai, Charles "'The Journey is the Destination' tells the incredible story of Dan Eldon." CNN Wire, 23 Nov. 2017. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 7 Jan. 2018.

Bamsey, Ben. “'The Journey Is the Destination' Tells the Incredible Story of Dan Eldon .”CNN, 23 Nov. hhhhh2017,

Zimbardo, Philip. “What Makes a Hero?” Greater Good,

Page created on 2/22/2018 8:37:34 PM

Last edited 9/2/2021 11:37:18 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

The Journey is the Destination - Learn how Dan used his photography skills to spread his message!
The Incredible Story of Dan Eldon - Find out how Dan used his resources to bring awareness to a growing famine and civil war
About Dan Eldon - Watch this video to see Dan's impact on the world!