A guest post from Louise Simpson, child sponsor about friendship and photography and making a difference. Louise is behind a photo exhibition at Jafa Cafe, Grey Lynn Auckland, which will run for six weeks from 19 November 2011, when there will be a special launch and auction starting at 7.30pm.

Louise and Paloma and the boys!

By Louise Simpson, ChildFund child sponsor

Having travelled through places such as Cuba and Mexico, seeing firsthand how challenging the conditions under which so many children are forced to be raised and the enormity of the hurdles these people have to conquer in order to achieve even the basic living essentials that most of us here in NZ take for granted, I made it a goal to not go through life without reaching out a helping hand.

I knew that there was little I could do as an individual to target the global child poverty issue in any great way, however my thought was if I could at least help one life to jump a few of these hurdles then hopefully the knock on effect would be great.

In 2007 after seeing a ChildFund television commercial I felt compelled to stop procrastinating, pick up the phone and sponsor a child. After being introduced to Brazilian culture a year earlier and connecting strongly with the Brazilian community here in New Zealand it seemed only natural to request a child from a country that I felt had enriched my life in such a positive way. I asked ChildFund New Zealand to connect me with the child in Brazil that had been waiting the longest and was most in need of a sponsor, and that is when my journey with little Bruno began.

From the moment I received his picture and story I felt an unexplainable connection, a responsibility that was far beyond anything I had anticipated, there was just something about this little boy that I could feel was super special. Over the past four years we have had numerous letters back and forth, Daviana (Bruno’s 19-year-old sister and main care giver) writing the letters and Bruno in charge of the decoration. I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil in 2009 however was unable to make it to the remote area where Bruno lives, but this experience only increased my understanding of Brazil and Bruno’s culture.

In 2010 I meet a girl called Paloma, a Sao Paulo native living here in NZ with a background in child psychology, and it was only a matter of time before we realised our mutual interest. On a trip home in 2010 Paloma offered to take a bus to visit little Bruno, this was no small offer as just one way is an 18-hour overnight trip on a less than luxurious coach.

The report back, photos and video she took moved me so much that when it came time to get married in
January this year I talked my husband into exchanging traditional gifts for a travel fund idea and raised enough money to purchase airfares to Brazil for our honeymoon with the main goal being to visit this special little man.

This trip did not only motivate me however, through this experience Paloma herself had some realisations and has become a sponsor of another little boy from the same area, Carlos Douglas. We were able to time this next trip perfectly with another trip home for Paloma and we all set about planning this journey once again to meet Bruno and also Carlos Douglas together.

So in late August this year we all boarded the 18-hour bus, it was a Friday night and it was full of the sugar cane workers heading home for the weekend, the three of us definitely stood out as different. Between excitement, nerves and a very bumpy bus ride not a lot of sleep was possible that night. I have to admit, 8 hours in I began to wonder what the hell we were doing, but as soon as I arrived at the community centre in Virgem da Lapa, saw Bruno’s shy face poking out from behind a tree, my eyes welled up and I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.

We started getting to know each other, meeting Daviana his sister and her insanely adorable daughter Evelyn, and whilst Dan (my husband) took Bruno outside to test out his new soccer ball, Paloma and I had a meeting with the incredible women responsible for running the community centre.

We had long discussions about Bruno and his situation, the community centre and what they were achieving in the 35 communities they serviced within the Jequitinhonha Valley. We also talked extensively about the challenges they face, the two at the top of the list were 1) the lack of government support and
2). educating the kids to believe that they can make a better life for themselves than what is currently facing them, to teach them to believe in themselves and that there is a much larger world outside the valley.

I know there isn’t a lot I can do about the Brazilian government, however what I do know is that I have been given a unique opportunity to show this little boy that what and who he is matters, that whatever he dreams can become his reality.

Having gained a Bachelor in Visual Arts with a photography major I know only too well the power of imagery. Of course I had my camera out that day documenting this incredible experience with a plan to share these images somehow on my return to NZ. The camera captured the interest of the boys so I also handed my small Canon G10 to an excited Bruno, we didn’t speak the same language but we definitely bonded over photography. Carlos Douglas got in on the action and before long we had two little boys running around taking photos of everything, all I have to say is thank God for digital!

It wasn’t until I returned to NZ however and was taking a good look through these images that I discovered just how powerful, gorgeously naive and super humorous the images they managed to capture are. Not too bad for first time camera users! So this is how I became connected to these cool little boys and where the inspiration was born for this photographic exhibition “Bruno”.

The six-week exhibition begins on Saturday 19 November, 7.30pm at Jafa Cafe with a special auction event. Drinks and nibbles provided $20 at the door! All welcome!

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