I came across this lady while on a mission trip in Chincha Alta, Peru. The city had been devastated by a major earthquake in 2007 and when we arrived two years later, there was still much repairing and rebuilding to be done. The residents in the parts of the city that had been most heavily damaged had been relocated to the edges of town where they were still living in structures with woven bamboo walls and roofs made with blue plastic tarps. Fresh water, when available, came from spigots located at various places in this makeshift suburb. I was amazed at the resiliency of the residents who had spent almost two years living in these very challenging conditions.
Rather than deal with relocation, some of the city's residents chose to remain in their homes, most of which had been condemned due to the damage to the walls and roof. Standing in the doorway of one of the homes near where we were working, I was admiring a beautiful set of long lace curtains that appeared to be covering a very large picture window in the back wall of the house. Upon closer examination, I discovered the lace curtains were the back wall. With so much lost in the earthquake, I can empathize with those who decided to stay in their neighborhoods, hang on to whatever possessions they had left, and stitch their communities back together. I came away inspired by so many folks who refused to be defined by their situations. They kept working, kept helping their neighbors, and kept moving forward.
Many of the stories from the trip had happy endings, others had promising outcomes, while some were filled with sadness and appeared to be headed toward an unhappy ending, though the final chapters were still being written. While walking through one of the neighborhoods, we encountered this elderly lady resting outside a store and stopped to chat with her. Drawn to her hat and red sweater, I asked if I could take a photo of her and she graciously let me squeeze off a few frames. When I finished, I turned the camera around to let her see the image on the LCD. At first, she gave a puzzled expression, but that quickly turned to a big smile as she spoke to my translator, who told me, "She said the lady in the camera has the same hat as I do." It dawned on me that this might have been the first time she had her picture taken. Further discussion revealed that she had three sons who lived in the city, but they had put her on the street to fend for herself. She declined any assistance from us, got up from the bench she was on, pulled herself up straight, and resolutely moved on down the street.
I followed her for a time before taking this image, which I felt showed her courage and determination in the face of uncertainty.