You never forget them. The tiny statures. The fragile limbs. The sad eyes. And I'll never forget the little "peanut" that immediately caught my attention in Guatemala a few years ago while on a photojournalism trip.
According to Action Against Hunger, one in eight people in the world don't have enough food to eat. That number exceeds the population of the U.S., Canada, and the E.U. combined!!! But each of one these precious people are not just a statistic or a number . . . they have a name. They were created with value and beauty and purpose. But I find that we often forget about them. We drive past the man with the sign on the corner. We forward a commercial on TV about hunger to get to our favorite show. We quickly turn the magazine page with an ad about the nonprofit while we wait for our appointment.
Traveling the world and visiting many third-world countries brings these realities to life. The sites, the sounds, and the people have become part of my story. My identity. Because with knowledge and experience comes responsibility. My job as a photojournalist is to tell stories through my lens . . . bring more awareness to world problems . . . bring light to unknown issues . . . and help nonprofits continue to carry on their life-saving work.
I had the privilege of traveling to Guatemala to document the work of Soles4Souls. I knew very little about this country and to be honest, I think I only looked it up once on a map before boarding the plane. After traveling internationally for over twenty years, I've become a bit more relaxed in my preparations. Ha! To my surprise, the country was absolutely stunning . . . the mountains, the history and most importantly, the people.
One visit made a large impression that I can still envision like it was yesterday. Our small team went to a nutrition center. We brought toys and lollipops which brought a few extra smiles to the faces that afternoon . . . big kids and little kids alike. I noticed one little girl laying in a bed. She looked even smaller in size laying in the middle of the twin bed. A young cousin brought her to the center that day because the little girl's mom couldn't leave the other children at home alone. Scared and very sick, the little one laid there as we entertained the room. I asked the nurse if I could pick her up and to my surprise, her little body felt like that of an infant. Her clothes smelled like they were soiled and my petite arms encompassed her malnourished body.
She is one of the countless statistics longing for a meal each day. But, she has a name. Meet my little friend Glendy. She was 2 years old but only weighed 13 pounds. She stole my heart and has never left my memory.
I have found in life that although people are many times aware of issues and needs, they don't recognize the severity of the problem and therefore are not proactive in becoming part of the solution. The distance between our own reality and those living differently, prohibits urgency and immediate actions. If you lost your job and could no longer feed or clothe your children, the topic of poverty and hunger would no longer be something you heard of from another source . . . it would be kicking down your front door to face you head-on.
Although you may not be able to relate to the issues, you can still make a difference for countless people encountering things like homelessness, unemployment, depression, hunger, and poverty. There are a multitude of ways to give back. Don't underestimate the power you have to change the world. It truly only takes one person to change one community to change one country to ultimately, change the world.
Fight for those who need a voice . . . who need a helping hand. Because the difference you make for one, can impact the future for many.
Remember that next time you see a person in need, they are someone's child. Someone's sibling. Someone's friend. And each of them have a name!