Breaking the language barrier

When languages differ, communication can still exist through emotions. When studying abroad in Ecuador I had the opportunity to visit a school in Chaquizhca. There the children and I used the power of photography and journalism to communicate and engage with one another.


Meeting the children

While in Ecuador, I spent time with about 20 children who went to school in Chaquizhca.

At first, the children were noticeably shy to us outsiders when we arrived at their school. As they looked over their shoulders and whispered in Spanish to one another, their hesitation was clear. Some would try approaching us, only to then change their mind and run back to their friends.

Connecting despite a difference in language

However, through smiles, waves, and other signs we showed the children they could trust us. We greeted them with “Hola” and asked them “¿Cómo estás?”. The more we engaged, the more their hesitation toward us began to fade.

As we continued reaching out to them, there were more smiles, more waves, and far more laughter. The language barrier, while still standing, did not block us from connecting and coming together to paint a Little Library that we were going to set up for them so they would have books to read.

As the time went on, I would smile, wave and greet the children when they peeked my way. Over time the small smiles and waves I received got bigger. Strangers’ faces turned friendly and familiar.

Breaking barriers with a camera

My experience with the children was also unique because of the camera hanging around my neck. While I took photos for my articles, the children would come over fascinated by the technology in my hand.

I would snap a photo and show them the image appear on the screens. Then do the same with video. Their excitement was clear and their laughter was uncontainable when they would see themselves on the screen.

At first, the photos I took of them showed them with straight faces. However, as our connection grew, and comfort levels rose, they allowed me to capture their smiles with the click of my camera.

The evolution of the smile

Many of us on this trip talked about how accustomed we are in the U.S. to smile at a camera and how we learned because photography in U.S. culture is so prevalent.

My Foto Amiga

One girl, in particular, would stay at my side as I took photos and wait patiently for me to kneel next to her to show her the image. I then held her hands and helped her take photos with my camera. As her interest grew and grew, I pulled out my phone and handed it to her. Her smile was priceless as she went around taking photos of her school and smiling friends.

Lessons the children taught me

Engaging with these children allowed me to see many inspiring aspects of humanity. From our universal connection, our shared joy, patience, and their eagerness to learn, we touched each other’s lives and, for me, gave me a memory I will always cherish.


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