Feb 22, 2017 – Photographing on assignment in the Dominican Republic for Esperanza
Esperanza’s mission statement describes their work in the Dominican Republic like this:
“Esperanza International’s Christ-centered mission is to free families from poverty through initiatives that generate income, education and health, restoring self-worth and dignity to those who have lost hope.”
The mission statements that drive the organizations I photograph for are always compelling and I find myself moved by the purpose they express. However, it is not until I meet the persons whose lives have been transformed that the mission statements come alive and take on real meaning.
As I sat with Lorenza, listening to her story and hearing her deep appreciation for Esperanza, I wished for everyone to have the opportunity to sit by Lorenza on this beautiful Caribbean Island of Hispaniola and hear her story.
The difficulties that life held for grandmother Lorenza never defeated her spirit. Her industrious mindset has allowed her to care for her six children without her husband’s presence in her life. The love that she has for her children and eleven grandchildren is so apparent from the interactions I was privileged to witness.
Lorenza’s story would be very different without the partnership she found in Esperanza eleven years ago. At that time Lorenza was struggling hard to make ends meet through her small clothing business. She was always an industrious hard worker but lacked the resources to fully utilize her skills. Running out of inventory was always a problem as she lacked the resources to restock the clothes that she sells.
This changed when she partnered with Esperanza as an associate. Esperanza associates receive small loans called “micro-finance” that usually range from from one-hundred to a few hundred dollars. These loans allow workers like Lorenza to grow their business or in some cases even start one, as well as prevent their own poverty and to offer services to the community in which they live. During the process, Esperanza becomes much more than a business partner but a friend, freeing families from poverty while sharing the hope of Christ.
Lorenza’s first loan was for $130 and she has had fifteen loans since. These loans have enabled her clothing business to be profitable enough to start new businesses as well, a beauty parlor and a barbershop, both next to her home. After that came the acquisition of a small truck to deliver Mabi, a popular soda, to the neighborhood.
I loved the interaction that took place between Lorenza and Luzmari as I tried to persuade this shy granddaughter to pose with her Grandmother in the beauty salon. My questions helped break the ice, resulting in the beautiful expressions of love seen in the photographs taken today. The question that invoked the biggest reaction from Luzmari, the eldest of eleven grandchildren, was, “Are you your grandmother’s favorite?” The answer was obvious from the expressions on both of their faces. Lorenza clearly holds a special place in her heart for Luzmari whose name means “lady of light,” clearly a name that she lives up to.
As our time together came to a close I asked Lorenza “if you were to express what Esperanza means to you in one word, what would it be?” This question has brought s variety of responses from the associates I have photographed, requiring a bit of reflective thought from her and a measure of patience and a little persistence from me.
The words she offered as she processed this question included excellence and purpose but in the end, the word was HOPE.
I absolutely adore this Dominican entrepreneur and her granddaughter Luzmari, it was an honor to meet them both while photographing for Esperanza.