Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photos Tell Powerful Stories

A client of mine just shared with me this piece she wrote as a way of expressing her deep emotion around the recent disasters in Asia. I was moved to tears by it and asked if I could share it here. I am happy to say that she said yes.

Photos tell powerful stories, and I have been struck in recent days by three sets of photographs. All feature similar subjects but in vastly different circumstances.

In one group of photos, taken by teachers in my daughter’s daycare, the toddlers are busy doing art projects, reading books, and going on walks in the California sunshine. The kids are adorable, engrossed in the water fountain on campus and making paper flowers for Mother’s Day.

In another set of photos, a similarly adorable group of young children gathers around a tent, a makeshift shelter in central China. Their orphanages were deemed unsafe following the earthquake and its aftershocks. The teachers and nannies care for not only their current charges but also incoming children, newly orphaned by the disaster.

In the final set of photos, the most disturbing, children’s gray-blue bodies are washed up on the shores of the Irrawaddy River or lined up for identification in the hard-hit area of Burma’s delta.

These scenes strike a chord professionally and personally. I work with an organization that researches human rights abuses and attitudes toward justice and social reconstruction following mass atrocities. Close colleagues were in Burma when the storm struck, and they saw the devastation firsthand. They helped deliver supplies and assisted local organizations to monitor the sham referendum choreographed by the junta.

China’s tragedy also hit close to home. We adopted our daughter from the stricken region nearly two years ago and spent a week in Chongqing, breathing diesel fumes in the sweltering heat. I look at her in the photo with her current classmates and imagine how easily she could be among the children now sleeping in tents, or worse.

The events in Asia seem overwhelming and beyond any one person’s capacity to assist in a meaningful way. So what can be done?

For my own sake, I am motivated to do three things:

  1. Give what I can to relief efforts. I am grateful to people on the ground providing what aid and comfort are possible.
  2. Actually make an emergency plan with my family. Earthquakes and powerful storms are imminent possibilities here on the edge of the ocean.
  3. Squeeze my daughter a little more, tell her I love her and I am glad she is part of my life in this fortunate part of the world.
Written by Camille C.

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