Photographers Without Borders
In November I spent two weeks working with the fine folks at Photographers Without Borders. NGO Photography is something I’ve always wanted to be involved with. PWB set me up with Alma De Colores, an organization that creates employment opportunities for disabled people. They are part of Centro Maya. It’s an amazing program, and it was an incredible experience. Here are a couple photos from the trip and my thoughts from my final day there:
When I first visited Centro Maya for Photographers Without Borders, I won’t lie; I was shocked and uncomfortable. People with cerebral palsy were yelling in the hallways, a quadriplegic wheeled around using only his chin to direct himself, deaf women yelled their strange yells from the workshop and a never ending stream of people with disabilities came through the gate. I have zero experience with something like this. And it was disconcerting.
Now, on my final day, my eyes well-up at the thought of leaving. The quadriplegic is now Manuel. He greets me with an, “Ola amigo!” And I’m thrilled to see him. He shows me photos on his phone using the toes on one of his feet. He shows me how he can use a laptop with his lips and he likes to practise his English with me. He’s a painter, he’ll soon be a waiter at the restaurant and he’s an incredibly smart guy.
The deaf yells in the workshop come from Martha. A beautiful 18 year old who walked me to her house one day and introduced me to her family. Her smile is infectious and together with her other friends, she’s constantly laughing. Pablo, a guy who was hit by Guillaume Barre syndrome a couple years ago and was completely paralyzed, limps his endearing limp over to me with a coffee before I even ask for one. He also invited me into his home; a two room tin shack he shares with five other family members.
Now Centro Maya is a place of happiness for me. As it is to everyone that works here and everyone that comes for therapy. Everyone greets each other with the mandatory hand shake and obligatory cheek kiss. There is smiling and laughing constantly. There is no distinction between the disabled and the non-disabled. It is a safe place of equality and love. In a country where losing all hope would be easy, there is an over-abundance of it here.
If you wish to donate directly to this cause, please follow the link in my bio. Thanks to all that have contributed to this incredible experience.