In May 2013 I went to Peru with a fantastic group of photographers led by The Giving Lens to shoot some photos and help set up an after-school photography program for some rural children in the small town of Oropesa near Cuzco. This young lady, I'll call her S., was in our small group on the second day as we walked up the big hill to the church on top where we planned on taking sunset photos. As soon as we started walking, she started talking to me in broken English, and I could tell right away she really wanted to practice her language skills with me. S. was trying very hard and was doing a really good job with her English. She asked me where I was from, how old I was - stuff like that. As we walked, she pointed out things to me and told me how to say them in Spanish. I tried, but my Spanish is really terrible, but she didn't mind. We walked and talked most of the way up the hill, until she took off with the other kids because I was a bit too slow. Even though it was brief, I could tell there was a real connection there because she wanted someone to talk to and I happen to be there.
On the day we left, at the end of the day, we were saying our goodbyes at the main gate and she came up to me. It was a bit hectic and there were a lot of people talking, and she said to me in her soft voice, “Que el Senor te protégé en tus viajes.” I don’t speak Spanish and didn’t understand what she had said, but my teammates from the trip who spoke Spanish kind of gasped when she said that. I asked what it meant and they told me “May God protect you in your travels.”
I was stunned and touched and cried the whole way back to Cuzco. These trips bring a lot of things into perspective for people and this one hit me right between the eyes. If you are at all interested in photography and helping people (and yourself, evidently), you should check out The Giving Lens and go on a trip with them. I guarantee you will not regret it and may end up meeting some new best friends from around the world.