Thursday, March 26, 2009

My precious little Elvia


Fig. 1 Uganda. 1980. "Starving Boy and Missionary."

The photo "Starving Boy and Missionary" by Mike Wells (United Kingdom. Karamoja district, Uganda, April 1980) was named 1980's World Press Photo of the Year. A young starving boy lightly and desperately grasped a strong, stable hand. The boy stood beside the missionary, casting a shadow that could be seen on the ground beneath them. God knows what the boy had endured; his hand told a myriad of stories. At first glance the only images seen are the small, frail, emaciated hand of the young boy and the large, healthy hand of a servant. It sends a message that we witnessed a moment of commitment, but upon study the scene told an in-depth story that had an even greater meaning: The boy and the missionary convey an unspoken connection that one cannot explain. It seemed to me that when I first laid eyes upon this photo, I was compelled to write about it because of the vast contrast between the one hand that had promise and the other desperately trying to survive.

That feeling was similar to when I went to Guatemala in 1995. I saw the devastation and poverty that filled the streets as we walked through a village on a March afternoon. The cobblestone covered streets were the backdrop for the shanty makeshift houses, where poverty stricken people spent their long and hungry days. The mood of helplessness and hopelessness was abruptly transformed with the laughter and joy of children thanking our missionary group for candy. As Canadians, we sometimes put on a façade of being happy, even though we are not half the time, but the Guatemalan people have an indescribable joy even though most of them live in poverty.

The chocolate brown, sparkling eyes of a little girl in Guatemala are the eyes of a girl that captivated me. I knew the children needed my help, so I took the opportunity to make a difference in whatever way I could. I first saw her in a picture, wearing her colorful Guatemalan dress, her dark, flowing hair pulled back. Her gentle, sweet spirit took my breath away, as I gazed at her smile. She held a brand new pair of shoes proudly in her hands; shoes that my sponsorship money had helped her to buy. I could see how happy this made her.

The background of this photo is filled with lush greenery, a red wreath placed upon a green wreath woven together to decorate a makeshift Christmas tree. Elvia Natalia stands beside it with a grateful look in her eyes. There is so much I need to know about my little girl Elvia. I hope to return to Guatemala one day to meet her, hold her in my arms and gently kiss her cheek-tell her how much she means to me-and how much joy she has brought to my life.

Elvia Natalia brings to mind the "Starving Boy and Missionary" photo, a photo that spoke volumes to me with a sense of urgency; I did not want Elvia to suffer the same fate. I felt an unexplained connection between her and I. Something inside told me to give her as much love and support as she needed and that I needed her as much as she needed me.

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