Researching and Reflecting

December 8, 2008 | By Vanessa Marshall | News, Photography, Photojournalism


Evelyn, a teacher from Fotokids in Guatemala City, conducts a brief impromptu interview with Delores, the mother of newborn baby Surama Concepcion Angelica Vanessa, outside of Santiago Atitlan Hospital

It’s been a big day. We’ve been digesting web media all evening from our hot desk hub in the restaurant and pretty soon we’ll slip into the hot tub and the sauna under the stars by the invisible shadow of the volcano across Atitlan lake.


Phil Borges shares his vast imaging knowledge generously, in this photo he shows Johnny and Henry (cousins from Santiago Atitlan) how his video camera works at the local hospital as we wait for the director of the hospital to arrive for an interview.

We’ve had two interviews with doctors to explore the topic of maternal mortality in childbirth and infant health. It’s a complicated political and socio-ecomonic issue and we’re face with the challenge of working with kids of 10-12 years of age.

Johnny interviews Dr Walter Montoya, the GP that inspires him to become a doctor after treating him for a nosebleed. Dr Montoya explains how he works with the midwives to ensure health births as Phil Borges films the interview.

They’re a little under ripe for the project but they are part of a new intake of the program we’re partnering with called “Fotokids” founded and run by ex Reuters journalist Nancy McGirr. We’re here to nurture their story telling skills. Unfortunately Nancy had to leave us on the second day to visit her ailing  father.

It’s a relief the environment is somewhat energizing. The contrast of our almost luxurious hotel is stark compared the the neighboring village that was wiped out and partially rebuilt after a landslide only 4 years ago. A chatty Norwegian nurse struck up conversation with us and revealed she was here to give aid to the refugee village in town which we have not seen but apparently has plastic walls.

I have only ready about that stuff in the newspaper, now I am only kilometers away from it, drinking $12 per glass whiskey and using wireless Internet. It makes one dig deep in their emotional and philosophical pockets. One can’t help but wonder why one is blessed with such abundance when others suffer such austerity and squalor.

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