I’ve been back from my trip to Bolivia for almost 2 weeks! While I wrote in my journal much of the way home, I have had a hard time figuring out how to share the deep shift in my perspective that Bolivia showed me. When I left, I wondered what would happen or how the trip with shape my hopes or even if I would discover that my dreams were real or lasting.
The best part of the trip was composed of the company – the people who made it an unforgettable experience: here’s a few hamming it up for me at one of the many view points on the road to ToroToro.
I discovered that photography is a powerful tool to connect us across language and social status, almost as if it’s a form of communication all it’s own. It starts with a smile. And that moment in photography where you can feel the connection in a person’s eyes exists no matter the conditions.
A sweet lady along the road who grinned from ear to ear to have her portrait captured.
It doesn’t have to happen in a studio to be stunning.
Classmate Tina showing a sweet farmer his portrait.
Every person is beautiful. Sometimes you just have to show them so that they can see.
. . .
Even though the trip was humanitarian in nature to support Food For The Hungry in the fight against childhood malnutrition, it was a chance to grow as a photographer through Workshops With Purpose. And, to look into the lives of children who were happy no matter their growth chart, or circumstances.
Food For The Hungry helping families to fight malnutrition with family farms.
I first saw poverty (unlike what you see in America) when I traveled to Bolivia at 16 as my Grandma’s traveling companion. Going back and seeing it through my eyes as a wife and mother was a deeper experience. I saw how rich in spirit the kids were despite living in mud brick houses. I saw the same struggles with snotty noses and shy kids that we see at my house. And, I saw the strength of mothers and fathers working to grow a better future for their children…from the very basic of necessities…
The youngest of four, this little one’s family is growing healthy kids with support of The Little Ones Project.
Food For The Hungry is working to eradicated childhood malnutrition, and the title Bolivia holds as having the second highest infant mortality rate. It was an honor to help them AND learn about how non-profit photography work looks in practice.
I had the pleasure of being able to ask many, many questions about how they work to engage the community, train local leaders to become advocates as well as learn about such things like irrigation and nutrition. Through a few of my fellow workshop companions (and Teachers), I saw what sponsoring a child looks like. It’s not just money given every month to the parents. It’s a support network and basic materials to grow and thrive. From some school supplies to funds that benefit the village to grow more food, sponsoring one kid can change a community.
The thing that impressed me the most about the many ways that Food For The Hungry works is that they have an exit plan. They don’t just put up a building to hand things out. They have a plan for empowering the community and letting them fill the roles needed for sustainability.
I asked Cristian to show me his favorite veggie out of the garden, and he chose Carrots (my son’s favorite too)!
The trip was such a growing experience as I personally have a deeper appreciation for my home and American life. At the same time, cliche though it sounds, want more of the simplicity that a life in rural Bolivia holds. I came home painfully aware of the shift that happened in my heart to be more present and grateful. It’s so easy to get sucked into the standard routine and connectivity to the Internet through various channels of social media. And yet, life here is so easy.
Ironically, I gave up our P-Patch plot last winter so that I could work more for funds to explore more of the world and to provide more for our family. We’d love a bigger house with land to grow our own food that we don’t have to share or that has produce stolen at random. I found that slightly funny as I photographed gardens in Bolivia. I gave up mine to go see theirs. And yet, I don’t need to have a garden of my own.
My children can grow up healthy and strong because we live in a country with a complex food system, one with choices. Again, ironically, we live in the “food desert” neighborhood because a grocery store is more than 2 bus rides away. But, that’s easy compared to a village outside ToroToro, Bolivia. It is these types of observations that I’m still wrestling with in that part of me that wants justice and fairness in the world.
Since that isn’t possible, I take photographs. We are not that much different from each other. We just have different opportunities. I hope that I make the most of mine, to do my part to help where and how I can.
There’s much more to share, but for now, my heartfelt gratitude for the experience and the support of my family and friends who helped make the trip possible!