Medellin… a picture is worth a thousand words

4 05 2011

My return back to Medellin was greeted with open arms and anxious anticipation (primarily because it was over a month later than I had promised to return due to my not-so-brief “deportation” to Peru).  It seems that for whatever reason, I find myself in Medellin for all major holidays. This time I got here just in time for Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter.  In Colombia it is a week filled with lots of processions… and very little work.  As usual, everyone was giving me a VERY hard time for working throughout the week, but my thoughts are— the kids still have to be there, I might as well be there too. So we will begin with the processions and finish with my project with the kids of PAN during the week.

Processions. Lets just say I have a lot of respect for the 12-18 dudes that carry these huge, awkward, wooden float-like religious statues. They seem awfully heavy. It was quite warm too. And they all were dressed to the 9s. I would like to give an extra shout-out to the littlest dude in the group.  They ordered the men tallest to shortest and according to my quick physics calculation via a mental force diagram… well, the littlest men were carrying the majority of what appeared to the untrained eye to be a very heavy object.  See for yourself:

Just another reason I am glad I am tall... notice how much the short guy on the right is struggling.


Man that looks heavy!

As the procession worked its way down the street (at a rather slow pace… remember these guys are carrying rather heavy objects. They walked about 20 steps and then these little boys jumped underneath and propped up the statues with wooden poles, the men cavalierly wiped their brow, drank some water, occasionally switched positions… and on they went, the next 20 steps)  towards the church, one noticed the balconies that were totally decorated.  As Jesus (the last statue in the procession) crossed the balconies, they had a quick party for him. Balloons popping, confetti, huge Jesus posters unveiled, helium balloons released…. it was pretty cool. As the procession, and ultimately Jesus, passes in front of you (the viewer of said procession) join the huge group of people to complete the march to the church with the many of procession-goers. It is all very theatrical, a very cool experience.

pre-procession balcony


Post procession balcony, aka Party for Jesus

A picture is worth a thousand words:

There is one thing that I know for sure… kids living in these institutions LOVE cameras: having their picture taken, taking pictures, and looking at themselves in pictures. I mean absolutely love. I mean you could entertain a handful of kids an entire day with nothing more than a digital camera. The battery would die before they would tire.  What I am not as sure about, is why they love it so much. Is it the novelty? The power of creating an image? The coolness factor? The ability to see themselves? (there aren’t a lot of mirrors in many of these places) Do they just like to touch, see, play, do? Maybe all these… maybe none.  In every country, in every orphanage I have worked in the crowds are the same when you take out the camera.  So, I have several ideas about projects I would like to someday conquer with the kids and cameras, but for the time and resource requirements, we started small: picture frames.

It’s a little thing really.  Something we middle class Americans take for granted.  The luxury of being surrounded in your home by your family’s smiling faces. We plaster our homes with picture frames. I know for me, in all my moves, on of the things that really makes me feel at home is when I hang up all my pictures of my friends and family. In the majority of institutions I have visited, the walls are a sad desolate extension of the rest of the building.  Sometimes they are painted a fun color, but more often than not they are the usual off-white, brick, blank, emotionless wall.  This place needed some pictures!!!

So I worked with the kids in small groups and they each made their picture frame.  This was fun… but the best part was to follow. After they finished painting, they each had 2 pictures with my camera. They could do whatever they wanted with these pictures: take it of someone/something, take a “selfy”, I would take pictures of them alone, with whoever they wanted, in whatever pose the wanted.  These were THEIR pictures and THEIR frames and they were able to make a choice of whatever they wanted to do (a rare opportunity when living amongst a group of kids this large) We had some serious creativity amongst the crowd!! And then of their two pictures, they chose one that I printed to put in the picture frame they made. Here are some pictures of the journey:

Frame painting


Hard at work


we glued tissue paper on the frames with the littlest ones


the finished products

Proud owner of a picture frame #1
Proud owner #2
And there are over 40 other proud owners who now have a little something to look at on their beds and walls. Just a little piece of home.







4 responses

4 05 2011

So simple – so priceless
A simple frame – a child’s smile

4 05 2011
Finally El Dia

Great idea Keely… changing the world one photo at a time. It reminds me of that movie “Born into Brothels” without the brothel part. Miss you and am so glad to read about what you are doing. I am proud of you!

4 05 2011
Alex Rios

Wonderful work, may you live long to continue your good deeds, god bless.

10 05 2011
Mama Juan

This is just the greatest idea of the kids seeing themselves. This made me cry like a baby to see this young kids holding up their pictures – this is their family, their life. They look so sweet and maybe this helps them to be more aware of who they are. Great idea, Keels.
I love you, mama

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