Home in the Barrio – Part 2

…continued… (go to part 1)

At the beginning of July, we spent a week in Nicaragua with Empowerment International and The Giving Lens. We spent one morning photographing Alexander’s family as they prepared for their day. This is the second in a two-part photo essay from that morning.

The four younger children stay together as they navigate the road toward the small school. The roads are dirt and at this time of year there is lots of standing water. Raw sewage and sweltering heat make this a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitoes. There are fleas biting at my ankles as I follow them up the road. But they walk this way every day, so who am I to complain?

They jump over puddles and laugh at each others jokes. Bernardo suddenly remembers that he has forgotten his gym clothes. The others wait for him while he runs back home to get them.

As they leave the barrio, they walk along a paved road – sharing it with cars, motorcycles, bicycles… and more and more children on their way to school. Today is a testing day, so many of the children are allowed to wear street clothes instead of their typical uniforms.

The school is located on a busy street. A chain-link fence surrounds the schoolyard, but it is bent and broken.

The school is painted a bright, welcoming blue – but on this hot and humid day, there is no air conditioning. It’s hot inside already, but the kids don’t seem to mind. They are busy chatting with their friends.

The desks are old, and marked by years of use. Juana is so proud to show me where she sits each day and studies math and science and reading.

And then the bell rings, and it’s time for us to say our goodbyes.

This was an incredible trip for us. Full of laughter and hugs and human interaction… and at the same time, a overwhelming sense of injustice. These beautiful children – smart and funny and full of energy – are living with hardships that those of us in the developed world can only imagine. They don’t get enough to eat. They walk through sewage to get to school. They don’t have access to hospitals. And yet, they are smiling and cheerful. They are friendly and full of life.

It was such a pleasure to spend a few hours with them. Eye-opening. Honest. And life-altering.

Our photographs can’t do justice to the reality of the situation in the Nicaraguan slums. Keeping these kids in school is critical because an education means they can build better lives for themselves and for their families. If you want to help support the organization – or sponsor a child – go to empowermentinternational.org and find out more about what they are doing for these kids, their families, and their communities. All four of Alexander’s younger siblings are still in need of sponsors. If you can help – please do.

Just for the record – Jay and I don’t work for Empowerment International, and we’re not paid to drum up support for the organization. We’re just photographers who had an amazing opportunity to get to know some of these kids. And they made us smile.

11 replies
  1. Wes
    Wes says:

    Wow, Varina! What an eye opening post. I didn’t even know the pictures I had of their store with Alexander’s mom, was Alexander’s mom until I noticed the family picture. The post is wonderful in that the words and the pictures are done so tastefully and beautifully…about a subject so sad, but real. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    Reply
  2. Kathy Adams
    Kathy Adams says:

    Jay and Varina, what an honor it was to have you teach our children! It is another honor to have you post so beautifully about them! Thank you both so much from the entire EI Team! And oh, we miss you!!!!!!! All of you!

    Reply
  3. Sue Ranscht
    Sue Ranscht says:

    A simple story on its surface; a world of need crying out from its depths. I feel privileged to read the insights you share and to see the universal, joyful humanity you found in a place further away from us than its physical distance would have us believe. Thank you, Varina.

    Reply
    • Varina Patel
      Varina Patel says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Sue. I wish my photographs could capture more than just the visible surface of the problem… and the outer beauty of the people. There is so much more depth to these stories that I can’t convey with words or photographs.

      Reply
  4. John Wearing
    John Wearing says:

    Hi Varina, I have just come across your blog post. Thank you so much for telling the story of the lovely family you linked up with. I got quite emotional actually. I am an English photographer and I support a family ln the Philippines so I do know something about the hardship many families endure throughout the world. What still amazes me though is the happy and joyful way they live their lives despite the conditions. I am glad you plan to return to the Barrio and I look forward to reading more about “your” family.

    Reply
    • Varina Patel
      Varina Patel says:

      Thanks for your kind words, John. We had an amazing time during our first visit to Nicaragua, and were able to visit the families once again just last week when we returned for a second trip. How those kids had grown! :)

      Reply

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