Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yesterday I sat on the floor in a circle with the Mãe Cuidadores, the mother caretakers, making frames for each photograph that we made last month. There were bits of magazines, glue, tape and wood shavings all over the floor as we rolled the colorful paper into tubes and pasted them onto the pieces of flat wood to make the small frames. There was a long debate about how the pictures would hang in the family´s homes. Some caretakers insisted that we needed to drill holes in the backs of the frames so that the families could hang the pictures on the walls. "You know, most of these familys dont have tables or shelves to display framed photos" one caretaker said. Others insisted that making a stand for the photo was a better idea "The small children would have better access to the photo...they could pick it up, touch it, bring it to bed with them." another care taker said. We did many experiments with folding paper in different ways, using glue to make the paper stronger, *trying to make the photograph stand on its own*. However, the pictures kept falling and we eventually gave into the wall hanging option. We settled on a piece of string, glued and taped to the back that could be hung on a nail. Marilha, my coleague, took down one of the images of the virgin mary from above the altar and hung one of the framed photos in its place. Everyone eyed the photograph causiously as we cleaned up, hoping it would pass the test.
Today I went with a few of the caretakers to give the photos to as many families as possible. Most of the fathers had already left to cut sugar cane. However, we did run into a few who were still at home, waiting to leave with a group on friday or another next week. "wow, this is great," one mother said, "we dont have any photos of my husband with the kids." another mom scolded one of the children who refused to be photographed with his father. "look how beautiful it would have been if you hadn´t refused to sit with your dad." One father said he wanted to take the picture with him to cut sugar cane. I said, no, this one has to stay here with your kid so that she can remember your face.
As we were walking house to house in the neighborhood Nova Esperança (new hope) to give people photos, we passed a little four year old girl and her small brother on there way to the day care center. The little girls foot was covered in bleeding and pussing burn marks. Marilha stopper her and her brother on the road to chat with them. They looked stunned, as if they had just seen a ghost. I recognized this pair children from a home I had visited two weeks ago. The home is a one room house that shelters 9 children and their mother. The father had just returned after being absent for about a year. He came to visit and said he was going to take the children away because he saw that the mother left them alone, with the 8 year old (the oldest) in charge one day. I remembered that the youngest child was severly underweight. It looked like it was barely surviving. Marilha asked the little girl what happend to her foot. She wouldnt answer. "your on your way to the daycare center, right?" marhilha asked. the girl didnt answer. "so go on your way then," Marilha said. And off they went.
I have been thinking a lot about social responsibility...specifically what kind of responsiblity these semi-employed caretakers and I have when we see children that are maltreated or starving.