May, 16, 2015

I discovered that photography is a powerful tool to connect us across language and social status, almost as if it’s a form of communication all it’s own. It starts with a smile. And that moment in photography where you can feel the connection in a person’s eyes exists no matter the conditions.

The trip really nailed the truth for me – that I love photography. And, I love using it in a way that connects us, that helps us have compassion for others.

Working with our interpreter, Abi, instructors: Andrew Nicodem and Benjamin Edwards.

Working with our interpreter, Abi, instructors: Andrew Nicodem and Benjamin Edwards.

Workshops With Purpose gave us an incredible opportunity to learn in real world conditions. Partnered with Food For The Hungry, we worked from a shot list as if we were on an assignment for their Little Ones Project. We worked with interpreters and saw the work being done to eradicate the high infant mortality rate and fight childhood malnutrition.

The local school, Rodeo Escalon, hosted a community garden where students and their families learned about diversifying crops, and sponsored children could learn up through 8th grade.

The local school, Rodeo Escalon, hosted a community garden where students and their families learned about diversifying crops, and sponsored children could learn up through 8th grade.

It was a beautiful thing to see mothers and fathers becoming empowered and educated about irrigation, nutrition and growing more diverse foods to feed their children. And, it was really powerful to work with the Food For The Hungry staff to see how passionate they are to do the work. These jobs are not what we have come to expect from traditional American jobs – they go above and beyond a job title.

Rodeo Escalon - a hand washing station with water purified by the sunshine.

Rodeo Escalon – a hand washing station with water purified by the sunshine.

What impressed me the most about Food For The Hungry is that they have an exit plan – a frame work to empower the people and enable them to support their community. They aren’t a big organization that expects to hand out bags of food or medicine. They connect the community to do the work within the country.

When I asked him to pick out his favorite vegetables from the family garden, he picked carrots!

When I asked him to pick out his favorite vegetables from the family garden, he picked carrots!

This little one's family is being helped by Food For the Hungry to diversify their crops and learn more about nutrition.

This little one’s family is being helped by Food For the Hungry to diversify their crops and learn more about nutrition.

I am grateful beyond words for having the opportunity to attend Workshops With Purpose and follow my heart. Yes, I do love non-profit photography and will look for ways to integrate this kind of work into my business before my retirement years!

©Susan Goldman Photography A photo of me walking along a Papaya farm devastated by a hail storm.

Background…WHY Bolivia

I started out sharing my story on the blog, then I launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdsource funds. Through that, I raised 10% of the budget amount, and another 15% directly by selling a few things and having family support my endeavor.

The full story, from the begining…

While I love motherhood and have learned and grown more than I have ever imagined, I always have this burning desire to do more.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my cousin when my kids were little and I was a full time mommy.  I told her how I felt like I was missing something.  She asked what, and I thought about it and realized I missed being creative. I missed painting, drawing and photography. She suggested I start painting again, or making cards – something I could start and put down at a moment’s notice when the kids needed me. So, I did.

And, a few years later, I was selling my fine art photography prints at little local art shows. That was two and half years ago, but I still find myself asking, what do I want to do? I see beauty everywhere. I notice details many become immune to seeing. From fine art nature photography to weddings, these traits serve me well, but I’m still not succeeding in a way that can help me contribute to the family and I still have a longing for more.  Part of this is time, that’s certainly true, but part of it, I think, is that I’ve been holding back.

I haven’t been completely honest with myself. What has always been most important in my life is helping people.

I want to use my photography to help people.

I thought that could be achieved to help capture a family’s life in an annual photo session. Then, I thought I could do it through modern portraits of women where they can see how beautiful they really are.  Those endeavors are rewarding, but the truth is, my desire is bigger than that – so big that it’s a little scary to put out there:

I want to help non-profits through photography.

My dream business involves doing part non-profit work traveling internationally and part portraiture work here in Seattle.

Which is why I am taking a leap and in April 2015, I will join Workshops with a Purpose in Bolivia to learn more about the Little Ones Project. Basically, it’s a work and learn opportunity: tell their story through photography while learning how to use photography to help non-profits gain support around the world.

I applied to this workshop because I’ll actually be learning in the field and giving back while learning.

Why Bolivia?

Bolivia has the second highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere.Food for the Hungry is working to provide a solution to this through the Little Ones Project – teaching mothers nutrition and proper care to grow healthy kids. Feeding kids well is one of my passions. And, while I have no idea what this program teaches, I’m sure we won’t be talking about Paleo and Gluten Free diets! It will probably be basic nutrition, and my job will be to simply help them continue to do the work:

Photographs will help tell the story and gather needed support for their cause.

And, Bolivia holds a special place in my heart. My grandma’s parents were missionaries in Cochabamba when she was teenager. She wanted to revisit her old stomping grounds about 50 years later, and chose me as her traveling companion when I was 16 (probably because I had street smarts and was young enough to not have a family of my own yet). Ever since that trip, I have wanted to go back. It was the first time I had ever seen real poverty.

I promised myself then, that I would return someday to help. Guess which city theLittle Ones Project is operating out of? Yes, Cochabamba.

Why now?

I noticed I was holding this dream in the back of my mind as something I couldn’t do until I was in my retirement years and the kids were all grown up. I assumed I would have to work first to build a successful photography business, and then go on trips and donate my photography services.

But then I found myself wondering, why not explore what I really want to do? Why wait and do it later – especially when there is a great workshop available to me now, about exactly what I want to be doing in a place that I long to return to?

The timing is sudden for someone like me who likes to plan ahead and save, and asking for help is extremely humbling.  But, I am going to be honest – I’ve put every penny I’ve earned back into my business, and this year I’m close to having a positive balance of just over $40.  My biggest block has been marketing and promoting myself.

Your encouragement and financial support means the world to me!  Thank you.