Remember Me

by

Right when I walked through the gates into the orphanage, I was flooded with questions, grabbed this way and that, and frankly, overwhelmed. I would hear “what is your name?” over and over in broken English, French and Arabic. They would jump to give me hugs, to have the human contact/love they seemed to so desperately want. I longed to give each of them the love they deserved. It was crushing to not have enough time to make sure each of them felt worthy, loved and important. Before arriving, I had assumed that the children received visitors all the time, I was wrong.

As I continued to give hugs and introduce myself, it happened, they spotted my camera which I had forgotten about and left hanging over my shoulder. The conversation quickly changed to “photo?”, “photo me!”, and “of me, of me!”. Everywhere I went, they wanted their picture taken. I love capturing people so I was happy to take their photos. They would pose standing in their mismatched shoes displaying a peace sign with their fingers or leaning against the grafitti-filled walls that surrounded the outdoor play area. It was as if asking me taking their photo, was a way for them to make sure that I would remember them. To them saying “photo” seemed to be synonymous with “remember me”.

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After a while of being behind the camera, I decided to let them try it out. They took turns looking through the lens and figuring out the shutter button with such genuine enthusiasm. When a photo they took appeared on the screen, each one was overjoyed to see the smiling or silly face looking back at them. I figured the anxiety that I had with handing over my camera to these children I didn’t know was nothing compared to the joy that they were overcome with.

With the soccer balls flying past, the kids chasing them, and the loud conversations, the area was pretty hectic. Amongst the many kids asking for photos, I would hear “futbol?” “come futbol”. So we played a bit of what we in the United States call soccer, and laughed as I completely missed the net a few times. Off in the corner, a boy approached me who to my surprise didn’t ask me to take a photo or play soccer, but wanted to talk instead.   He asked me in scattered (but great) English what I was studying and then continued to tell me about his dreams of becoming a lawyer or studying economics. This shattered my perception that being in an orphanage would crush their dreams, but it seemed to make some of them dream even bigger. The passion in his eyes was beautiful and I didn’t need to take his photo to remember him. He never even told me his name, but I remember him, I always will.

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As I look back at the hundreds of blurry, beautiful photos left on my camera by these amazing kids, I remember them. Their dreams, joy and smiling faces are unforgettable. Whether it be through a photo or a genuine conversation, they are REMEMBERED.

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