This post is also available in: Spanish
This week’s blog post comes courtesy of Lori, who has been doing a lot of traveling lately, both with Isabel and on her own. Here she talks about her recent visit to Mexico, where for the last few years she has visited and photographed an extraordinary group of children and their caretakers.
Isabel and I recently traveled to Baltimore, where she addressed the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The part of her speech that really struck me was when she quoted Khalil Gibrain: “Generosity is giving more than you can.” I love that line, particularly because it feels like the mantra of so many of the organizations we support in Mexico.
I just returned from a moving trip to Oaxaca, where I had the opportunity to study photography for the fifth year in a row with my mentor and hero, Mary Ellen Mark. The first year I attended Mary Ellen’s Oaxaca workshop, she quickly put together my love of photography with the work I do at the Foundation on behalf of women and children and assigned me to photograph several children’s homes and centers throughout the area. I have been photographing these precious children every year since, and all of the organizations have become Foundation grantees. Each year these visits both tear at my heart and renew my faith in humankind.
The organizations (listed below) are called “homes” rather than “orphanages” because the children all have at least one parent. Due to a myriad of reasons—including a single mom living without extended family, extreme poverty, abusive homes, mental illness and physical disabilities—the children have nowhere to live. Parents and other family members visit as often as possible—sometimes once a month and sometimes just every few years. It was hard for me to imagine this at first, but one day while I was visiting one of the homes I met a man who had come to see his granddaughter. It had taken him all year to save up enough money for the bus fare to make the three-day trip over the mountains to see her. The scene when he had to leave at the end of the day left me in a puddle of tears.
Another day, I saw a young girl of about 18 months wearing a cotton shirt with the words “Mommy’s Little Girl” inscribed across the front. Given that the motto was in English, that the shirt wasn’t actually hers (all clothes are communal) and that the little girl hadn’t seen her mother in months, the irony of the words was not lost on me.
Most of the children who end up at Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna (Children of the Moon), one of the homes I always visit and photograph, are “night active” when they arrive—that is, they remain wide awake at night and sleep during the day, having matched their rhythms to the night-time work schedules of their mothers. In addition, many of the children arrive with serious health issues due to malnutrition, nervous disorders and various forms of trauma. They may also have have speech problems, learning disabilities and display anti-social behavior. But all improve dramatically thanks to the love and care they receive at Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna. The other homes I visit take in children suffering perhaps less in the way of overt trauma and disability, but they are no less in need of love, compassion, empathy and a good meal each day.
These children and the women that run the organizations that house them have blessed my life beyond measure. In my opinion, María Socorro Ramirez González (Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna), Carol Marin (Casa Hogar Benito Juarez), Dr.Rosa Maria Gonzalez Ruiz (Centro de Apoyo Para La Integracion del Nino Down, A.C.) and the Sisters at Albergue Infantil are the true unsung heroes of our time.
Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna de Oaxaca, A. C.