Monday, February 26, 2007

The People We Meet

After a long and tumultuous trip Greg, Kelly and Damon arrived safely back in Kansas City late on Saturday night. For all of them, it was an emotional trip that they won't soon forget. We'll be providing you with more details and stories from Honduras in the days to come.

Today we wanted to travel back to Colombia as our writer Scott Cotter shares memories of that recent trip. Enjoy!

It has been nearly three weeks since we returned…the heat and humidity of Colombia have been traded for rain and snow. The sharp smell of cooking fires has been washed from our clothes and, as life has gotten back to normal in Kansas City, we were left with only our memories, notebooks scrawled with notes and discs jammed full of photos.

We met single mothers struggling every minute of every day. We talked to young teens filled with so much talent that I can’t imagine them not succeeding. And everywhere we went, eager sponsored children surrounded us with laughter and grabbed at our hands, pulling us toward their tiny homes.

Some of the people we met left me saddened and stunned. Most, though, were brimming with hope, helping me to see once again that action – and a bit of compassion – transforms lives in a lasting way.

Take Eneida. We met her and her two children, Marleidis and Anibal, at an anti-parasite campaign. When I asked for someone who wanted to talk about sponsorship, laughter erupted among the assembled mothers…they pushed Eneida toward me.

Gathered with mothers in a shelter of sorts, Eneida was singled out by the other mothers as the talkative one. Although shyness overcame her when she sat down with Jennifer and me, she managed to tell us how much she enjoyed being a part of the program and that it brought her children joy to receive letters and gifts from their sponsors.

We talked for less than five minutes, but with a smile, she said her children are thriving and that “we all benefit from a program like this.”

There was also Yesenia, who waited patiently at our community center in Barranquilla. It was late in the day and exhaustion had set in for all of us, but we knew we needed to hear what she had to say, not just because she and her mother had waited so long, but because Yesenia’s smile lights up a room.

In the community center library, as the sun’s last rays settled through the windows, her conversation with Patricia, our communication coordinator in Barranquilla, reminded me how much impact one person can have on another.

“I don’t live as bad as I did before,” she said with a smile. “I want to tell my sponsor that I love him like my own father and thanks for making our life better.”

Certainly, it’s good to be home. And though I may never meet my newfound friends again, I’ll never forget them. And I’m comforted with the fact that they will always have our staff in Colombia to turn to in times of need.

Yesenia used to live in a squat little shack that was so short her family entered bent at the waist so they wouldn’t hit their heads. Inside it wasn’t much better, the ceiling so low that Yesenia said it felt like suffocating. Rains often brought flooding and illness into the house. With help from her sponsor, Yesenia has a new house and the family has started a cold drink business that has elevated their standard of living.

Yesenia likes to talk about the time her sponsor visited. More than anything, she wants him to return. She says, “I’d also like to help other children, just like my sponsor has helped me.”


Robert said...

Hi Scott & Jennifer: Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures and story about Yesenia. I will treasure them forever. I have been wondering, all these pictures you've been making on these trips, would it be possible to provide us sponsors with access to them, so we can browse through them, and see all that you've seen. I'm sure all of us would love to see more of where and how our sponsored children live, and many other sponsors might be delighted to see their own sponsored children show up in one of these pictures. Robert

Andrea said...

Hi Robert,

I'm the phtographer who shot the photos of Yesenia. I think I can answer your question for the group...

What we really need are more hours in a day!

Because we try to run a lean and mean organization, many of us take on multiple roles at CI. Those of us with past experience and a continuing passion for photography take turns serving as photographer on our fact finding trips.

On a given day, we shoot an average of 200 to 350 images of children. Throughout a trip we might end up with 100 or more individual children.

While it is great to have this stock of photographs, when we return to the office after a trip, we are faced with a back log of email, staff with questions and job jackets bursting with projects that need our attention. It can take several days to several weeks to do a basic cataloging of all our photos for use in publications and on the web.

Unfortunately none of us has enough time to sort through the catalog, identify individual children, find their ID number, verify the child and sponsor, and upload them to a viewable album.

Thanks for the interesting idea. We’ll consider ways to do better in the future, but for now, we hope the blog offers another opportunity for sponsors to see their children.

Robert said...

Hi Andrea, thanks for your reply. I can understand you lack the time to identify each child and their sponsor in each picture, but I don't see why you would need to do that. We just like to browse through the pictures, to see where and how these children live. If you have a separate folder for each trip, we know which country we are looking at. And if you happen to have photographed one of the children we sponsor, we very likely will recognize them ourselves, which would make the browsing all the more exciting. What do you think? Robert

Jennifer said...

Hey Robert...

I think it's an interesting idea and as the organization continues to grow, I'm sure we'll be able to add more unique features in the future!