Berta and Pao welcomed us to their home in Sololá, Guatemala. Pao attends The Collective of women at Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores and invited us over to interview and photograph their family in their home. Pao’s mother is Berta and shares that she heard about The Collective from another woman in her community with disabilities named Eveline. The biggest impact for Pao and her mother has been has been knowing many people with disabilities and Berta shares, “having more friends and having the opportunity to share with other women with disabilities.” Another woman from The Collective named Heylin joined us as she wanted mentorship on photography and it was so great to see their connection as we interviewed Pao and her mother.
Pao is 33 and has one brother and her bond with her mother is very strong. As they share their story Pao is expressive and excited as her mother shares all the great things about her daughter. In practical ways their lives are so different after attending The Collective because Pao’s mom used to have to take her to work at the pharmacy where she is employed at the hospital but now Pao can stay home to be more independent. Pao smiles when her mother shares this with us. Pao loves listening to the radio, watching TV and laughs even more when her mom mentions soap operas. Pao shares that she loves to paint and dance and these are skills she learned at The Collective with “my friends Vale, Erma, and Mia.” Pao lights up and claps when we speak about her friends and she giggles when her Berta shares how much she loves to dance and joke with her friends there. It is clear the community there has been such an encouragement to Pao. Berta mentions that Pao’s time spent at The Collective gives her “time and space to learn to paint.” These are creative expressions often not available to women with disabilities. Pao has also had the opportunity to be involved with Madrina Teleton; an organization and fundraiser for women with disabilities and most of the funds go to those living in Guatemala City and Berta adds that while the funds raised do not directly impact them, “that’s okay because they needed more.”
The pandemic affected Pao a lot because she couldn’t see family anymore and she thrives with being with others. “At that time Pao was in school but her teacher changed and she did not feel comfortable so she left school,” Berta shared. The opportunity to be in community at The Collective has been such a gift to them especially now.
Berta shared Pao’s birth story, “when she was born the doctors didn’t bring the baby and then hours later then 5 doctors came to tell me she had “mongolese” but it was not, she has Down Syndrome. When they told me I knew another woman with Down Syndrome in The Collective so I knew her and I knew I would never hide her and we always go out.” Berta is proud of her daughter and shares that she is well known where they live, “she is affectionately open and everyone knows her in the community.”
Berta dos mention a few situations where she wasn’t treated well but does not dwell on them and even copes with humor. In one such instance a woman was starring and Berta said “so I asked , “do you like my daughter? do you want a picture?”
Berta is very grateful that in their own family everyone is very supportive. She shares a story that Pao would play in the park with cousins and friends and once her cousin was making fun of her so Pao slapped him but Berta’s sister said “don’t worry- they need to learn to play together” and her sister allowed the kids to work it out so Pao would learn and her cousins would also grow to appreciate their differences AND their similarities and be able to build their relationship together.
As we walk around their home together to create portraits and see where they call home, complete with their sweet dog following everywhere it is clear that their mother-daughter bond is strong. Berta and Pao are grateful for the support of The Collective in helping Pao live a full and vibrant life.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Photographers Without Borders on this assignment in Guatemala. So much thanks to the gracious and amazing women that invited me to their homes to document their stories.
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.
This warms my heart. They don’t call us “the lucky few” for nothing. No matter where you live, US , Guatemala or elsewhere, to find a community that accepts, supports and loves you is important . God Bless! ♥️💙💛
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