I almost didn't go.
Only a single refugee on the delivery schedule had agreed to be photographed, leaving me with, what seemed, little to do as the Saturday crew made three deliveries.Maybe in a couple weeks, I thought.
I decided to go anyway, at the least maybe it would lead me to explore another perspective, photograph what I could, while respecting real-life concerns some refugees have about being photographed living in America with family still back home.
It ended up one of the most touching and lovely days of my nine years photographing WTAP, one that reminds me why I do what I do, photographing people and organizations like the Welcome to America Project deliveries.
The great philosopher of NGO work, John Benson, a nurse, counselor, pharmacy manager, entertainer of small refugee children, jack of all trades that I worked with for a very short but profound week in 1994 in Rwanda once said, "I think I get more than I give," reflecting on his motivations and rewards. If you do the work, and someone's life is affected, improved, their heart filled, then your heart is filled and that is enough. It is a reward without price, A reward that does not come any other way but to do for others.
ON this day I witnessed overflowing hearts of refugees, touched and grateful for the furniture and household items that made their sparse apartments into homes.
The Haitian man here on his own, evacuated int eh 2010 earthquake who only just now arrived in Phoenix to begin getting on his feet, grinned from ear to ear, thanking everyone as he watched furniture, bedsheets, a clock, kitchen tools, item after item coming through his door. The smile never left his face as he sat surrounded by volunteers who listened to his story.
Next the Cuban couple who left Cuba because these thinking people had the nerve to express their opinions about how thing operated in their homeland, so they did not want to be photographed. They gathered the group to express their thanks, the husband/father speaking for his loved-ones saying, didn't believe the negative stuff that's said about Americans, rather he became borderline choked up saying, you are who I believed you would be, welcoming and generous, and he pledged to be the same once his family got on their feet.
And then the beautiful Somali family who agreed to let me work, also just so happy to be away from the continued troubles of their homeland and so welcoming of the youthful group of volunteers to their tapestry-draped home full of playful kiddos and grateful generations.
As I photographed the grandmother of the group, who sat, quietly watching as couches, tables and other needed homey touches generously poured through the front door, she flashed a thumbs up and emotion-filled smile for my lens.
What a great day and way to start the season of thanks.
Be sure to spread the spirits of the season and help someone out even if it's just in some small way.
You will get more than you give, I promise.
Don't forget about my fine art Print Sale and donation drive for the Welcome to America Project. Read on to the next blog post below for details.