ISMS Operation Kids
Though I was busy, I was longing to work with a team involving charity and children. I met Joan Blanco, the program director, in the Marrakech airport in 2007 when I was returning home from vacation. I was so impressed with her work with children’s charities, which includes recruiting teams of doctors dedicated to helping improve the lives of children with medical problems around the world. Each surgeon donates their time on a trip once a year, and this year they were looking for a photographer. I went to my first team meeting a few months after meeting Joan and joined as official photographer. Volunteer work keeps me grounded. To give back to these kids is a fantastic feeling that can’t be replaced.
Through the suggestion of a friend, I was soon connected to Leica Cameras. After they saw my website and we talked on the phone, I had a box shipped to me full of digital equipment on loan for my trip. This donation was so amazing since shooting film would have been too expensive and it’s always been my dream to work with the famous Leica optics. Everything fell into place, and I went on my first trip with the team to Marrakech in 2008. Our team was made up of orthopedic, pediatric, plastic, and hematology surgeons, plus their anesthesiologists and nurses, making a team of 18.
While I was there, I had to sometimes babysit, and even though we didn’t speak the same language, our conversations were all through energy and smiling and playing together. The comfort felt just by physically being close to someone is universal in a child’s eyes.
While working, I was really nervous to go into the OR because I thought I had a queasy stomach. When I told the doctors they laughed at me, but I was so engrossed in my shots, I didn’t pass out once. We worked 17 hours a day for a week without even realizing it. In an old hospital readied with archaic lighting and equipment and just one operating room, the surgeons only had two tables to work on while the sweat ran down their arms.
To see the eyes of the parents when their kids were returned to their arms—the expression was worth everything. Fadwa’s mother wanted to give me the dress off her back as a present for watching her daughter for four hours at the hospital while she went to nurse her new child. Another family offered to slaughter a sheep for the surgeons and their team in appreciation of saving their child’s life. Another family sent two huge bowls of delicious couscous for the team for lunch. The families hugged and cried in happiness at their children’s recoveries.
I have a new profound respect and admiration for doctors now. I always wanted to do this kind of work with my photography. This May we will go to Peru, and Leica is loaning me another box of equipment!
See more of Gigi’s photos here.