The last time I watched the documentary "Born Into Brothels" it was just before visiting India. I knew my photography would flourish there, and the story of these kids, finding an escape and expression through the same art form, held so tightly to my heart. Proud owner of the film, again, I found myself moved to tears watching it.
Having had been to a number of second and third world countries, but India specifically, gutted me. India, by far, was the worst poverty I'd ever seen, and smelled, in my life. Naked bodies, open masturbation from men on the streets, lack of personal space, being followed, street animals ranging from elephants, to buffalo, and monkeys. It was unlike any place I'd ever been to before, and been to since. Yet, one boy from the film reminds of a boy I met in Cambodia.
This is Avijit, ten years post the film's debut. He's 20 now and of all the children in the film, he stook out to me the most. The capacity of which he had to describe photos, and the level of his skills was impressive in the film, especially that being the first time he'd ever picked up a camera. Avijit has a father addicted to hash, and a mother who was set on fire by her pimp, during shooting. A true representation of everything wrong with the Red Light Districts of India. In the film he talked about wanting to go to college in the US, and wanting to be a photographer. Every odd on the face of the Earth was up against this kid...until the film director pulled every loop hole imaginable to get him a passport to attend a World Press Photography event in Amsterdam, and he was exposed to the world outside of India. Ten years later, he's now a student at NYU. Seriously, tears form writing this because of another young man, who reminds me of Avijit, yet lives in Cambodia.
I wrote on here once before about Vantaa, almost a year ago. The photo above is the first, and only time Vantaa and I ever met. I was on my trek through the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia, and after exiting Ta Prohm, I gave my driver lunch on me. While there this young man approached my table, and spoke stunning English. He asked if I was from South Africa, because of my dress. He also tried to navigate the circle of kids surrounding me, apparently because they'd never seen anyone with my style and feather earring. I was impressed with Vantaa. He spoke about meeting Angelina Jolie when they shot Tomb Raider in Ta Prohm. We spoke about his education. He was to be a few years outside of high school, and wanting nothing more than to get an education in the United States. He spoke so vividly about wanting to attend University, and how important it was to him, yet he doubted it would happen because of how poor his family was. I gave Vantaa my card, which he is holding in the photo ironically, and told him to please keep in contact with me, and use my blog as a way to study English.
About a month after my trip to Cambodia, he did just that. We keep in contact periodically over the internet. He's also gotten some free shwag sent his way. Vantaa knows I care. He doesn't know how much I care.
The type of success I want, is defined by me being able to pay for Vantaa's college tuition to attend school in America. That is the type of success I aim for in life, and travel.
People travel for different reasons, and approach it in different ways. I connect with local people when I go abroad, and I form relationships that I still cultivate after I leave. It's more so the people, than it is the places I go to. I want to see how they live and how they love. Giving back is such a huge part of what I want to do. Philanthropy is going to be a word synonymous with Evita. I have seen too much, not to give back.
Thoughts of Avijit and Vantaa today...