Meet Esperanza*. She’s a wannabe.
Well, kind of. I believe the artist actually wanted her to be like the girl in this Fernando Botero painting. Her proportions are similar to a Botero, but Esperanza appears notably more Caribbean.
I bought her for USD$50 at the foot of the hill where the original Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, used to be perched. (Here’s the Montana today, rebuilt after the massive 7.0 earthquake in 2010, which killed more than 250,000 people and which I still can hardly talk about. Maybe soon.)
Anyway, that trip was my first trip to the developing world – and, surprisingly, my only trip to Haiti (hopefully not my last).
Learning to tell stories
It was where I began learning from the best — like photojournalist Chuck Bigger — things like the composition of a great photo. It’s where I learned how to gather and tell an organization’s story from the point of view of its “customers” — those who benefited from its services.
It’s where my eyes were opened to the many opportunities we take for granted in the United States and developed world. It’s a hard truth, but a truth nonetheless: Most of the world is not born into opportunity like Americans are.
But parents everywhere still want the same for their children – to be healthy, to be loved, to belong, to have a better life than they had.
I can’t tell you how many mothers or caregivers I’ve interviewed who only ever wanted their children to grow up to be successful. When we would ask what their dreams were for their child, most replies inevitably included:
“I just want her to be somebody.”
I used to think that meant they thought their children weren’t “somebody” already. But I believe it’s more that the child’s potential hadn’t yet been uncovered. When it was, stories changed. Families changed. Futures changed.
For some families, it may mean a child has completed primary school and can work in the local market selling goods that help the family with income (not an ideal situation but certainly a real one). Or a high school education, which may mean a more technical vocation. A university education means a young person can become “a professional,” with a sustainable income to support even an extended family, including education for siblings and others.
Children are the key
When a child’s potential is developed, they become somebody who can bring health and hope a family hasn’t seen, lifting them out of poverty. And it doesn’t stop there. It ripples out to the community too, and sometimes even nations.
That’s why I call Esperanza a wannabe. Because I believe she wants to be somebody. Maybe somebody like a Botero – only better.
*Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish. This painting was named by my talented friend Kris, who kindly stretched the canvas she’s painted on. The canvas, by the way, is reused upholstery fabric.