I just finished a wonderful after-dinner conversation with my host-mom here in Bolivia. She is really great to speak with when I am feeling overwhelmed, and she has a lot of wisdom that comes out in her stories, and in the way she listens. We were talking about children and injustice and how to live in joy and love regardless of your circumstances. What the kids we work with have been through, and the communities we visited over the weekend, can seem unreal and unbearable. But new experiences and relationships can always be built, and we can always choose joy.

I have been thinking a lot about the weekend’s visit to the campo, where I caught glimpses of the type of community life that most Bolivians know, as Tyson puts it. When I was here two years ago, I didn’t get a chance to see this ‘other’ Bolivia. It is hard to describe how I felt – I was happy, sad, confused, overwhelmed, amused, a mix of everything. The adventures never stopped, and from the beginning of the journey I had no idea what to expect. What I really appreciated were the stories of the people in the community, how they were so willing to share their food and shelter and their way of life with us. They welcomed and trusted us from the beginning.

When we arrived in Patawasi on Friday, I brought my camera with me as we walked down to meet the community. The kids were very curious, and when I asked if I could take some photos they all giggled and ran away, timid to have their photo taken. But they were peaking out, wanting to see what this was all about. One thing I love being able to share with kids is my camera. The girls at CDP love taking photos and videos, and the little ones at PDC are also always entranced by the camera and thrilled to see themselves. I can take photo after photo, but what means the most is when I can place the camera in the hands of a child, of someone who normally never gets the chance to look through the lens and share their eyes with the world. It is always interesting to see their perspective.

I have been a lot more reflective about where and how I take photos, of how to be ethical in my ‘seeing’ and sharing. I think consent is really important, especially if I am going to pass my photos on to others. If these kids in Patawasi didn’t want their photos taken, I had no right to do it. So rather than sneak around and take photos of them, I offered them my camera. The girls were still super-shy, but some of the boys took up the opportunity and after a bit of practice, they got comfortable and had a lot of fun. The girls and other members of the community also warmed up to the camera and allowed us to take photos, and it was great to see their smiles and surprised expressions when I showed them photos of themselves on my camera. We plan to bring copies of the photos to both Patawasi and Mina Asientos when we go back in December.

Photos can be really destructive and exploitative, but they can also be powerful tools to communicate things in new ways and teach people about the world and the lives of others. Even if photos don’t turn out, the experience of taking pictures and capturing moments and scenes that mean something to the photographer is a valuable process in itself.

Here are a few photos from the past week, some taken by the girls at CDP when I let them run with my camera, and others that were taken by the boys at Patawasi. Whatever these images mean to you, they definitely had a specific meaning at the time taken, before we could see the result.

The community gathering around Ilda, the social worker from Misque who introduced us.

Kids love taking pics of their friends – this is one of the boys from Patawasi, he is 9 and likes social studies. When I asked them their favourite subjects in school, they all had something different to say which was pretty neat.

Sky! I am also inclined to take sky pictures, so it was neat to see this one on my camera, taken by one of the CDP girls.

A hopeful picture 🙂

Who knows what is going on in their imaginations?
Gracias, paz, y amor. Until next week,