Rosemary, director of the orphanage, has always made it a priority to provide for the widowed, old and/or ailing grandmothers in the community surrounding SMK. She gives them food and supplies when needed and offers a place at the school for their grandchildren. The Jajas adore her and consider her a hero of sorts. They consider SMK home... a place they can always come for respite and support.
Rosemary has introduced me to these women over the course of the past couple weeks. It has been a wonderful experience for me. The women invite me into their homes and sometimes even offer me a soda. They usher me to a couch, chair or woven mat on the floor. They have very little. They get by somehow, usually while taking care of countless orphaned grandchildren and great grandchildren.
All of the neighborhood Jajas were invited to SMK for Christmas. They arrived early, dressed in their best clothing. They sat in the the hot sun (in a row of chairs set out especially for them) for hours before we finally got started with the day's program. They sat for so long, some got very hot and tired and moved to the shade to take a nap on the cool concrete. Once the festivities began, the Jajas sat in the front row for the talent show. Each clutched a purse in their lap, held their heads high and were pretty stoic during most of the program. They watched as the kids performed dances and songs. Then they saw their new friend, Mama Gloria, teach the crowd the "Hokey Pokey."
After a few rounds, some of them started smiling and actually began to participate. When I encouraged them to "put their right hip in" they did! What a sight it was for me, standing at the front of the room, singing the Hokey Pokey with my fellow talent show singers, leading the group in the song and movements and then finally seeing the older women in their Sunday finery move one hip, then the other as I encouraged them to "shake it all about." Now that's a memory I will keep with me for a very long time.
Here are a few more of the Jaja portraits I have made. Enjoy!