Bolivia: The Polaroid Project

September 15th

New mama, with her new baby
New mother, with her still developing photo on the pillow. She is 26 and this is her fourth baby. The knitted cap came from a knitting guild in Phoenix.

The Polaroid Project started after my first trip to Nicaragua in 2002 when I visited a maternity ward that left much to be desired. I returned two years later with a suitcase full of onesies for the new moms and a camera loaded with film. They may be returning to poverty postpartum, but I was determined they would be doing it with more than just a hungry baby. A photo of their family’s new addition went over very well. Each trip since, I’ve been sure to carry my Polaroid camera and hand out photos often and generously.

Dork takes Polaroid photos
Smile! Don’t touch that spot. And no, don’t shake it like a Polaroid pickcha’.

When I put out the request for film in July, I immediately received more than a dozen email asking where it should be sent, how much could I take, etc? It was a fantastic response. I was able to take more than 100 photos on this trip — some of new mothers, some of children, all well appreciated — and came home with film for my next trip to Africa.
The Polaorid Project
She watched with a smile as her photo with her American surgeon developed.

Bolivians think I can work some sort of crazy photo magic. Needless to say, they had never seen a Polaroid camera before and would squeal with delight as they watched their photos develop. At first, they didn’t want me to take their photos. The indigenous Quechuan groups believe that a photo takes away a bit of the spirit. When I explained they would be given the photo, they couldn’t line up quickly enough. They were laughing, pointing, passing the photos around. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a group of people as happy.
Children show their polaroid photos
Everyone wanted one. Alas, I had group them together to conserve.

So thank you. Again to everyone who contributed and to everyone who wished me well. Next week — Peru and Ecuador and then I promise we’ll return to the previously scheduled crafting and political blogging.

Bolivian woman shows off her Bolivian bolsita
The Bolivian Bolsita project was also a bit hit.

Cactus Knitting Guild
As were the 100 knitted items I hauled down and distributed from my knitting guild. Such a fun trip!

Happy weekend everyone,

Posted in
Journal, Photography, Travel
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20 Responses

  1. This truly warms my heart, Kelli! What a fantastic project. Seeing all those smiling faces is so terrific! Have an excellent weekend. (Pray for me…I’m teen/dog/house sitting…the dog & house are the easy part!)

  2. i love the polaroid story. i could never tire hearing about it! next time you need film, let me know!!!!

    and i’m happy that your bolistas and knitting guild goodies were well received. it all sounds very successful!! (and love that little baby hat! how feminine!)

  3. So, so cool. And it will mean so much to the people you worked with, down the road, in the long run, to know that a giant amazonian American white woman took a minute to show that she cared. You rock, chiqua!

  4. Fabulous!! I’m so glad you posted these. I love to see their reactions.

  5. {Whooops, I wasn’t done commenting…]

    All the bolistas & knitted items look great!!

  6. Kelli, you’re amazing!

  7. Hey can you let me know when you plan on doing something else like this that my knitting circle can do some charity knitting for? We try to pick a new thing every month…right now we are knitting for the Red Scarf Project for foster children. Anyways, let me know so I can organize a project. Thanks!

  8. Dude, how big of a suitcase did you have to take for all those bolsitas and scarves? Maybe for the next round of Wristlets around the World we each make a bolsita for you to take and deliver on your next trip? We could fill it with the first aid stuff you suggested before? See you in a few hours!

  9. Kel, these are such good things that you did. I can’t imagine how one little bag or one knitted scarf might be a big event for those folks. You’ve got a good heart, as do the people who helped make your project work.

  10. That’s awesome and I’m with the others – let me know when you need/want new items to take with you. It is really a lot more fun to craft with a purpose. 🙂

    ps – I got the cd & photos today – THANKS!!!!

  11. What an amazing impact you have had in the countries you visited…you can see it in their faces. My favorite is the new mother with the tiny, tiny baby. Just an amazing moment for mother and child no matter where you are.


    P.S. I got the photos and cried when I saw the little Nic. girlie on the front of the card. You are awesome and Im glad to have gotten to know you through your blog.

  12. Kelli
    I am thoroughly enjoying every entry you have posted since you’ve arrived back home. The faces of these people are amazing. Such stories in those beautiful faces and expressions. The Polaroid Project is so touching. Thanks for taking the time in sharing.

  13. Awesome project and great photos…how satisfying it must be for you to bring them such joy, and in such a fun project.

  14. That was such an inspiring project…if you ever need anything for future projects/trips etc please let me know…I’d love to help!

  15. Me too!! I would love to make/contribute anything you need for your next trip for these beautiful people. A goodie arrived in the mail from you yesterday…I won’t spoil the surprise so for now I’ll just say THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

  16. Kelli, I’ve just spent a while reading through all your trip posts. How wonderful! Bless you for your big heart!! I love the beautiful pictures and the stories too (you’re a great writer)! By the way, what did you wind up putting in the bolsitas?

  17. Great post! Your stories and photos make your trip come alive for your readers. I adore the photo of the woman nursing her new baby. Such a universal experience and so beautifully captured.

  18. Kelli, what a wonderful person you are. I didn’t realise you were taking scarves too.

  19. what a fantastic post. I love the people holding their polaroid, waiting for the picture to develop. And the breastfeeding mother! So beautiful.

  20. kelli, i have so enjoyed catching up with you! you are such an amazing woman! thank you for sharing your pics, stories, project, advnetures! i admire your courage & your passion to help others! so glad to “know” you via blogging!!!!!!!

    & thank you for the wonderful surprise package i got over the weekend!

    hugs & gratitude,
    mary ann xo