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  • Welcome to the Gigi Blog!

    Mother to six Little Women and Two Little Men. Married to a Happy Mortician. Caretaker to goats, chickens and many, MANY bunnies. Photographer. Homeschooler. Lover of Jesus, coffee & tea and all things pink & vintage.

{Dignity} in the poverty.

 

Poverty.  Dirt. Heat. Sickness. And even death. 

 

The Haitian women and their children are incredibly beautiful and their stories of their new lives with La Tienda are so full of the possibility of a hopeful future … but the surroundings in which they live cannot be ignored. I haven’t been able to blog about this properly because it takes some time to think about and wrap your head around … 

 

Let me paint a scene of a typical Haitian home, here in Ascension Village. Take Livi, who works at the art co-op creating bottlecap earings. Livi has 11 children & one grandchild from her 14 year old daughter – they live in a cement block home with a rugged tin roof. The windows are two holes in the wall covered up with wooded slatted shutters.  Sometimes the house is two rooms, sometimes it’s three rooms – either way, it doesn’t matter as there is very little furniture or belongings. On the cement floor, there are a few dirty pots and pans … and two buckets filled with dirty water and a tin cup – the household sink. 

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Their stove consists of a coal-burning fire, with one pot held over the fire with their food boiling away inside the oil-filled pot. Little two year olds toddle around the fire and tiptoe on the dangerous line of care. Some mothers have 11 children – but they do not have any beds … if you’re lucky, you will have maybe one bed – and I use the term “bed” loosely. Here in this situation, there are over seven people living in this house – so two children (the older ones, who help contribute to the family income) sleep on the “bunk beds” (which consists of a metal frame and possibly a very, thin piece of scrap foam) while the rest of them – the parents included –  sleep curled up on the  hard cement floor. 

 

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Babies crawl around naked on the floor  – for the most part, they do not use diapers – where their sister or brother just soiled themselves. Garbage is strewn in random places. Chickens, dogs, and cats roam freely throughout their land. Boys bathe and drink from the same river which is used to wash the village trucks or motorcyles. 

 

In the Haitian village, the women have not yet understood the workings of sex, their cycle or cleanliness. They have to use one pad for their entire period (so as this point, I would like to thank those that donated pads for the women – we were able to give about five pads per women which was a great blessing for them).  The teenage girls are told not to get pregnant, but they are not told what it is that makes them pregnant. 

 

When it rains, the children run into the muddy streets and bathe themselves in the downpour …

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They may have a a few clothes but they certainly do not have much – the clothes they do have are ragged & stained and yet still, they put on their prettiest outfit when they found out it was picture day in the village. They may be incredibly poor but they still wish for diginity – one mom requested that her feet would not show up in the image … she felt they were too dirty …. 

 

And then there is Ingrisse – mother to three girls. She works extremely hard at the art co-op (La Tienda) and also holds over three other jobs to maintain financial security of some sorts for her family. I was shocked when I found out she is 24 years old … she looks like a child herself. When I found out her 12 year old daughter was in the hospital, after recently undergoing heart surgery, I was amazed again. She has a 12 year old?! And she had to send her very unwell daughter on public transportation (which, let me tell you, is not a piece of cake or a fancy comfortable ride, even for a well person) ALONE into the city to check herself into the hospital for heart surgery … Ingrissie has been anxiously waiting this entire week for her daughter to come home. She has no way of communicating with her daughter to even find out how the surgery went or if she is okay. Every time someone comes into the village, she turns and looks anxiously to see if her daughter is amongst the group, returning from the hospital …

 

Ingrisse specifically did her hair beautiful for this photo – she scrubbed down her daughter and put on their best clothes … the photos of the La Tienda women are to bless them as they do not have photos of themselves with their children – other than if a white person came into the village, snapped a photo of themselves with the village people and then mailed it back to them  …

Ingrisse then wore this outfit for the rest of the week. I think – I HOPE – she felt beautiful …

 

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Tamara and I talked last night and we really feel like we want to help Ingrisse out – we are going to use some of the money that was raised to hopefully rent a taxi for Ingrisse so she can travel into the city, pick up her daughter at the hospital and bring her home. We’ll find out today if that is possible … I just can’t imagine how anxious she must feel, not knowing if her daughter is okay after her surgery and knowing she, a Haitian child who is very hated by a majority of the Dominican culture, would have to travel back to the village alone. 

 

And yet there is still joy with the children … they  are so adorable and yet it’s so sad to see some of them living in such conditions … look carefully in this photo …

 

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There is so much to write, so much to think about and try to grasp and comprehend … so much work still to be done … but with every money sent to La Tienda, more and more women are helped. We are just heading back into the village … today is our last day …

June 12, 2009 - 9:42 am

Carry Aultman my heart aches, it’s inspiring to hear their stories and heart breaking at the same time. These women are so incredibly strong and absolutely beautiful.

June 11, 2009 - 5:02 pm

Michelle Gillian, once again such amazing photos. The stories of these ladies lives are popping right out of the screen!! You have truly outdone yourself and echo so many of the previous comments. I too, hope that you do a showcase of your work from this important and inspirational trip so we can all hear about your journey and see more stories through the magic of your eyes – lens!! You and Tamara truly are selfless Angels and I am very happy to have met you both. You have opened my heart to pause and reflect on my many blessings and hopeful for things to come that I can do to make a difference for those less fortunate. Wishing you both safe travels home.

June 11, 2009 - 4:34 pm

Erika Gillian, there is only one word to truly describe you, “ANGEL”

You are a gift from God and we all are blessed to know you.

June 11, 2009 - 12:03 pm

Amy McTeague OMG Gillian I am sitting here in tear with heartbreak for these families! You are doing such an amazing thing…there are no words to descrive it! You are a true inspiration. Gorgeous shots of life in this country…wish we could take away the poverty from them!

June 11, 2009 - 11:30 am

Jodie These pictures and stories are heartbreaking and amazing. The women in La Tienda don’t realize how inspirational they are to other women across the world who hear their stories. Their strength and perseverance is unfathomable. I echo what the other person wrote who responded to this blog about how these stories and pictures make me realize just how much I have and how blessed I am and grateful. Thank you for documenting their stories and for the work you and Tamara did while you were over there. If you ever go back please let me know. I want to go with you.

Tarama’s sister-in-law – Jodie

June 11, 2009 - 11:26 am

Tara Gillian. These are so compelling and tell such a moving story. Are you going to do a showing of the images? You can gladly use my space if you need a showcase. I will wait to hear when you are back so that you don’t need me Sat. I am back now too.

June 11, 2009 - 10:27 am

Stacey I am left speechless…. I can’t even really imagine what it is truly like, even though your very descriptive words and images paint a very realistic picture of how bittersweet your experience has been. Having a baby, I can’t relate to not diapering him or let him crawl around on a dirty floor, how is this even possible? That is just heartbreaking.

Thanks for your amazing work there Gillian…so grateful that you are fortunate enough to witness this and open our eyes to the realities of our world; and how important it is to count our own blessings and feel grateful for the simplest things when we are having a bad day. Please continue to tell us more….

June 25, 2009 - 10:19 pm

The work is {not} done … » Gigi Blog […] the Haitian village I recently visited. I remember, quite clearly, the sick children, the rotting poverty, the unfair political treatment, the look of despair on a mother’s face when she realized she […]

Into the {village} …

First off, sorry that I have not been able to blog regularly – where we are staying, the internet and the power is sporadic … thankfully, the house wasn’t flooded today with a huge down pour that came over the village suddenly this afternoon. 

We have spent the past few days photographing each women that works with La Tienda, taking photos at their homes and walking through the Haitian village, and photographing the jewelry and items being made in store, La Tienda.

I have really struggled with the fact that so many tourists visit a developing world, whip out their cameras and are so ignorant in just taking photos of the locals for no apparent reason other than for the sake of shock or their own gain. 

This project is the opposite of that scenario – we have been very respectful of how and when and where the images are taken. Each women is treated with respect and love – and hopefully they understand that the image I am taking will benefit them and their children. It’s a challenging project to explain – the process of where these photos will go and how they will benefit La Tienda … but rest assured, it was not easy for me to just step into a situation of extreme poverty and sadness and just snap away. The first few days, I was afraid the women and children would think I was taking advantage of the situation … but over the course of the week, we are building friendships with the women and they are beginning to trust us. 
Rachel, the project manager of La Tienda, is amazing. She is VERY humble and refuses to think of herself as Mother Teresa, but that’s how I see her! She is working so diligently at not only creating a trade for these women who a few years or months ago had nothing … no skill, no trade … but she is also helping these women feel dignified and beautiful and full of worth. 

And I have to say, watching the Haitian women work their magic with their La Tienda jewelry has created made me realize and understand how HARD they work to make beautiful necklaces, purses, anklets and such.

 

Meet Romona  – once a concubine for a Voodoo priest… now, she provides for her children with the creative skill of knitting … you may have seen her knitted cases at the La Tienda party in Orangeville …

 

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… i-pod cases in all their beauty!

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Elisana works for the co-op, making the long beaded necklaces … very serious and hard working, she recently arrived from Haiti and with each sale of the necklace, she was able to save up her money and bring one child at a time from Haiti to the village.

 

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This next situation truly broke my heart and made me feel very sentimental the same moment … Tania, only 15 years old, just gave birth to Sebastian … I found out she was struggling as a mother, accepting the new chapter of her life as her pregnancy was not something that came out of a good situation … and when she saw this image of her and her baby, something changed in her face and how she viewed her little Sebastian … she smiled and looked very proud of her little son …

 

 

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Tamara and I are heading back out on the public Dominican bus now … that’s ANOTHER blog post …  but I gotta jet now! I will try to post again soon!

June 13, 2009 - 7:06 am

Jen These pictures are my favorite! I am so loving seeing these mom’s breastfeed their little ones 😀

June 10, 2009 - 9:49 pm

Donna Langman I am so glad about Tanya. Tanya is a friend of mine. I had e-mailed Rachel to find out how she was doing and Rachel sent me to this site so I could see for myself. You are a very talented photographer! Thank you for using your talents for these people. I am sure you made them feel beautiful!

June 10, 2009 - 8:33 pm

katherine such amazing women and children. you have captured them beautifully. thanks so much for taking time away from your family to make a difference in theirs.

amazing gillian.

together we’ll all be able to do our part. thanks for the inspirational photography.
the evolution of LaTienda continues.

Blessings,
Katherine Siebert

June 10, 2009 - 1:34 pm

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com The pictures of Tania and her son are precious. I’m glad that she thought so too =)

June 9, 2009 - 11:46 pm

melissa hansma So heartfelt and touching. You are a beautiful soul gillian.

June 9, 2009 - 10:56 pm

Angie Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us! We at home are all praying for you and thinking of you and the Women of La Tienda as well. May God who began this good work keep and sustain you all. Keep up the beautiful images Gillian and know that you and Tamarra are so appreciated and admired for following God’s calling on your hearts.

The {La Tienda} Experience …

So we are HERE! We are in the village of  Montellano…. in Dominican Republic, for {Project} La Tienda. I’m sorry I couldn’t blog earlier, as you can imagine, internet is hard to find in the village where we are staying. I’m very excited to find a source of internet (and power!!!!!) to update the blog!!!!! 

Tamara and I prayed long and hard that none of our suitcases would be confiscated while traveling through Cuba and into the Dominican … and so far, everything – even from the wonderful-Dominican-transportation that we had the lovely privilege of experiencing (I think the Dominican men want to marry and whisk Tamara away – she was getting a lot of offers …. !) has gone very smoothly and according to plan.

First off, can I just say this is a very hard post to blog about … I don’t even know WHERE to start …I didn’t think it would be this challenging to write and explain what we’re doing but I’m going to try. Please be patient with me as I fumble through this post.

On the first day, we were able to hand out the items you all donated for the women at La Tienda – it was so exciting to be able to hand out all the goodies for the women. They were so incredibly blessed by all the donated gifts you guys sent with Tamara and I. As soon as we arrived, Rachel, Tamara and I went through all the donated medicine, tylenol, vitamins, toothbrushes, toothpaste and MORE and divided all the goods up into 27 different bags for each La Tienda women. 

Here’s Rachel, the 27 year old art co-op genius :), in her Dominican home, reading through the notes and packages that we delivered. Rachel has been here five years, raising two orphans and caring for all of La Tienda – she cannot receive mail or packages unless someone hand delivers them to her … her mom can’t even send her a care package.  We made sure there were some goodies in the suitcases that would cheer her up (like peanut butter) …

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getting the goods unpacked to take to the village ….

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All the goods, getting organized to deliver to the ladies (Thank you to Annette and Soyna for lending such BIG suitcases for our trip!) …

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So we jumped into Rachel’s truck, along with her two year old adopted son, Jonathan, and her 13-year-old adopted daughter, Rosairi and drove into the village where the art-cop of La Tienda is located. Right away, we were able to meet the 27 women who make all the lovely jewelry of La Tienda and were able to hand out the bags of items to each women. They were very shy, very modest in their thanks, but you could tell that they were extremely grateful and happy to receive such presents  … one women left the store very quietly with her bag of shampoo, deodorant, a toy for her children, a comb, some pads, and three head scarves … within minutes she returned to the store, sat down at one of the art-cop tables with her beautiful head scarf tied carefully around her black hair. It was precious … 

 

This is Livi …mother to eight children … she makes the coconut candles and bottle-cap earrings …

 

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Here is Marianna – she makes the necklaces out of seeds and found objects …

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Here are some of the women at work in La Tienda … they received their paycheck and just turned right back around and went back to work making more jewelry …

 

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They are so beautiful … these women were so excited to have Tamara and I there – at first, they were unsure but then when Rachel explained what we were doing, they were very excited to have their photo taken …

 

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inside the store … 

 

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Tamara and one her new friends … 

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These are the home surrounding the village where La Tienda is located … there truly are nothing more than a shack … the floors are covered in garbage and dirt … 

This is Francia …

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absolutely heart-breaking … I don’t even have the words to describe this image …

 

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some of the children …

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such gorgeous souls ….

 

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yes, playing in the garbage dump …

 

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Tomorrow is Sunday … so we are going to the church in the village and then we will spend the day photographing the store and the jewelry that they have made. By Monday, we hope to be photographing each women in their homes and spend more time meeting their children and getting to know everyone on a personal level. 

Not sure when I will be able to blog again but hopefully within a few days, I will find internet access yet again … the electricity is inconsistent so we’ll see where the next few days take us.

June 9, 2009 - 10:18 pm

Jeanne Harper I feel like this blog has become my latest addiction. Just like a good book you start to feel like one of the characters and that is how change slowly happens, when people are faced with realities they never imagined then they wake up one morning and realize they can identify or even better that they want to be a part of the larger picture. Some may think that this is on the other side of the world and forget about it while they order a large latte and flip thru a magazine waiting for their hair appointment but I think your living proof there are people who care and I think this is just the beginning.:)

June 9, 2009 - 8:08 am

Heather wow. as allways your photos are amazing. you have such a gift for capturing amazingly soulful shots. btw… about your computer… high temps and humidity can cause stuff like that… give it a few days to acclimate and then see! Im having a blast here in Mozambique. There is a professional photographer visiting the mission for a week and he is giving me free lessons! A dream come true for me!! wooohoo.

June 9, 2009 - 7:41 am

Tine what a beautiful thing to do…God bless you! these shots are absolutely STUNNING!!

June 9, 2009 - 2:40 am

lovelyn oh the tears. i don’t have words right now…i just can’t. thank you for serving.

June 8, 2009 - 5:24 pm

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com These photographs left me breathless. Wow…

June 8, 2009 - 5:10 pm

Rose No words have to explain these pictures Gillian, they are stories within themselves. I am sitting here listening to my daughter screaming with glee in the comfort of her home and then I see the pictures of the children there…tears fill my eyes and heart…if only we can take those children and give them a fraction of what we have here. We need to count our blessings!
Thank you for sharing their stories by pictures, very powerful.

June 8, 2009 - 9:33 am

Carry Aultman Teary eyed and speechless. As always stunning pictures Gillian.

June 7, 2009 - 1:40 pm

Chantelle As my two little boys are snuggled up in their cozy beds having a nap, I am brought to tears by the pictures you have posted. You, Tamara and Rachel are absolute angels, making us aware of what adversity others face elsewhere. I have no words to express what I am feeling…

June 7, 2009 - 10:13 am

Evelyn Thank you Gillian, Tamara & Rachael for your hearts of compassion on the women & children of La Tienda…these pic’s have given me more insight on the adversity they must face and that I need to get on my knees and pray for these precious people. It breaks my heart to see such poverty when in other parts of the world we live in such abundance…help us Lord to have hearts of compassion! Praying for strength & protection for you girls…may God order your steps! BE BLESSED 🙂

June 7, 2009 - 9:27 am

Brenda (Gillian’s mom) What can I say, after seeing those pictures, especially the little child sleeping on a mat! Gillian, I am so proud of you and Tamara and the “small” sacrifice which you are making. I know that your lives and hearts will be changed forever. Rachel is such an inspiration and I admire her tenacity and willingness to be God’s hands, feet, mouth and heart EXTENDED! Bless all of you and may the Kingdom grow because of your upcoming project from La Tienda! Love you xoxo

June 7, 2009 - 8:43 am

Catherine You are doing such important work. I too am haunted by the photo of the boy sleeping outside on the mat. Tears came to my eyes as I think of my own boys….

June 7, 2009 - 5:41 am

Lisa Piellusch Such a great thing you’re doing. Fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next post.

June 7, 2009 - 1:44 am

Mich Gillian & Tamara, this journey you are on is so incredible and I feel so glad that I am able to be on it with you from a far, learning about these special women and all the wonderful work that La Tienda is doing to make their lives better. I too, feel so blessed for what I have and for my family. Thank you for reminding me of that. Your photos are so powerful and yet so heartbreaking. I wish you both continued safety and blessings on your journey.

June 6, 2009 - 11:37 pm

Jeanne Harper I am so grateful that you are there Gillian, I am haunted by the image of that little baby boy and I think how my sisters in motherhood across the miles and miles that separate us are doing such a wonderful and amazing job, they truly are inspiring and examples of all that is strength and beauty and most important love and faith.

June 6, 2009 - 11:31 pm

Melissa You are truly doing a wonderful thing. That picture of the little boy laying on the mat breaks my heart

June 6, 2009 - 11:19 pm

Melanie WOW, Gillian, those pictures are breathtaking. The image of the little baby just melted me to tears.

June 6, 2009 - 11:16 pm

Lita Gillian wow, what an experience..Thanks for sharing this, it really makes one feel fortunate for what we have. Glad to see you are safe – continued safe travels to you both!

October 4, 2009 - 12:12 am

Help. » Gigi Blog […] you have just started following this blog, you should read a bit about La Tienda here and […]

Light …

‘The eye is the lamp of the body …

if therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.”

Matthew 6:22

 

Tomorrow is the BIG day! Tamara and I will be heading off to work with La Tienda – a day we have waited for and worked towards for months now, but amazingly enough, I can’t believe this day is here already! Both Tamara and I were quite weepy tonight, as we tucked our little kids into bed for the last time over the next seven days I know we will both be missing our kids VERY much … but we’re also hoping that even through our experiences with Project La Tienda, our children and family will also learn a bit about paying it forward, helping others and doing the deeds you are called to do.

I’m still proofing like a mad woman (I rented Gone with the Wind and so Scarlett O’Hara is keeping me company tonight while I work – yeehaw!), working hard to get a majority of my galleries up before I leave. Here’s one little cutie pie that I couldn’t resist sharing … happy six months, Jett! Love ya!

 

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LOVE your blue eyes, Jett!

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Stacey, your online gallery will be up tonight! 

June 6, 2009 - 6:52 am

Brenda (Gillian’s mom) Wow! His ARE really blue!! Such a sweetie! xo

June 6, 2009 - 6:52 am

Brenda (Gillian’s mom) WOW! His eyes are really blue!!! What a sweetie. xo

June 5, 2009 - 7:24 pm

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com Wow! Look at those eyes! =)

June 4, 2009 - 8:11 pm

Stacey Hi Gillian,
Thanks so much.. if you can believe it.. I just realized this was here! lol..
You did a great job as always!
x

June 4, 2009 - 11:34 am

Amy Jett is gorgeous. He has grown so much!! Such beautiful eyes.

{Little} Nicholas!

The countdown is on! 24 hours and Tamara and I will be heading off on a plane to the Dominican Republic, our suitcases stuffed full of medicine, bandaids, vitamins, and all sorts of goodies for the La Tienda ladies … I’m SO excited! I have been on missions trips before (I spent almost four weeks in Zambia, Africa a few years ago with the Salvation Army, also doing aid work, and have gone on several missions trips as a youth with my church) … but this time, it feels a bit different. It’s also very exciting and humbling to be asked to use the talents that God has given you in this way ….

 

Please pray for Tamara and I – for safety as we travel, for clearance of all the items we are bringing over, for our health (we are going to a high-risk malaria area) and that we will make a difference in the lives of the women of La Tienda. 

Last night, I received an e-card from my client, Lita, wishing me safe journeys and thanking me for going over to La Tienda … how sweet! I was very encouraged! You guys are awesome!
Lita, you are AMAZING! I had so much fun shooting your session … 🙂 

 

Enjoy the images! 

 

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I loooooove this one!

 

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I’m sure there will be lots of posts still before I go as I’m a the Proofing Queen right now, trying to get some galleries up for my clients before I jett off tomorrow. I am wanting to watch Gone with the Wind while I proof tonight, but do you think I can find it in town anywhere?

 

P.S. Don’t forget about the giveaway posted below! 😀

June 3, 2009 - 3:16 pm

Tine oh my your colours are FAB! what a gorgeous shoot!

June 3, 2009 - 10:36 am

Lita I am in photograph heaven right now with new gallery (amazing work by you of course with lots of happy tears 🙂 and this blog post too! Any of your clients would understand many thanks again! Have an amazing trip and safe travels to you both!