World Vision photographer Suzy Sainovski meets children at a kindergarten in Mongolia while collecting stories for World Vision’s photography book ‘Vision of Hope: Mother & Child’.
I’ve been capturing stories and images for World Vision for over five years now. During that time, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some incredible mums around the world. In the lead up to Mother’s Day, I wanted to share four of their stories with you.
Margaret, Zambia – 2008
I met Margaret on a trip to Africa with World Vision in 2008. The first thing I noticed about her was her infectious smile. She enthusiastically told me about the seeds and agriculture training she’d received from World Vision and how they’d helped transform her family’s life.
Margaret was 51 at the time. In Australia, that’s not considered old, but in Zambia, where life expectancy is 52.5 years, people have a very different take on age. I remember she said “even though I am old, I still want to learn. Education doesn’t end.”
I felt so inspired by her passion and determination that I was compelled to leave her my spare notebook and pens so she could write down all her ideas. When I returned from that trip, a workmate said it looked like I was lit up from the inside. I felt so uplifted by the people I’d met. Margaret inspired me then and she still does five years on.
Mulombwa, Congolese refugee camp – 2008
Imagine having to endure one of these challenges: fleeing your homeland for safety, living in a refugee camp on food aid, losing your husband while pregnant with twins or raising five children alone.
Any of these challenges in isolation would be enough to tip many people over the edge. When I met 36 year old Mulombwa in 2008, she was dealing with all of these – hard to believe, I know. She was living with her children in a tiny, mud hut in a refugee camp that turned into a swamp when it rained.
She told me they ate two small meals a day and the meals got smaller as the food started to run out towards the end of the month. There was a question I had to ask her but I wasn’t sure I was ready for the answer. “What would happen if the food distribution stopped?” Mulombwa’s response – “I would need to depend on what God gave me.” I had to fight back tears as I farewelled this mum who was doing her best to keep her family together and alive.
Susie, Papua New Guinea – 2010
Picture this – you’re nine months pregnant and start feeling labour pains. It’s time to start the journey to the hospital. There’s no ambulance, car or even donkey to take you there. You set off on foot. You walk for a while then you hop in a canoe and paddle yourself to a place where you spend the night. It’s not a hotel or even a house. It’s a dusty, open junction in the middle of nowhere. From there you take a small, public bus to the hospital. As unfathomable as it sounds, this is Susie’s story.
I met Susie in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea in August 2010. A couple of weeks before this trip to PNG, my nephew was born prematurely. He was given all the care he needed and is now an active and adorable toddler. I shudder to think what may have happened to Susie and her baby if there were any complications. Luckily for Susie though, her story has a happy ending too.
Shashida, Bangladesh – 2012
I have a soft spot for Bangladesh. I loved the time I spent there with World Vision in 2011 and had a strong feeling I would return some day. A year later I was back there with landscape photographer Ken Duncan to capture images for the book ‘Vision of Hope: Mother & Child’.
Ken and I visited a slum in the capital city, Dhaka, in 2012. The walls of the slum were made of corrugated iron and there was clothing of every colour drying in doorways – a perfect backdrop for our photos. That’s where I met 18 year old Shashida. Shashida was forced to marry at 14 – not an uncommon practice in Bangladesh. She had her first child at 15, then another at 17. Although she was thrown into adulthood way too soon, she was determined her daughters wouldn’t endure a similar fate. Gender equality is an issue very dear to my heart so it was inspiring to hear her say, “I hope to make my daughters educated to help them stand on their own feet.”
Each of these women have inspired me in their own way, and I hope they inspire you too.
Suzy Sainovski is the Field Resources Team Leader and Photographer at World Vision Australia.
Take a look at our new book ‘Vision of Hope: Mother & Child‘ for more inspiring stories of motherhood around the world.
Tell us, who are the women that inspire you?