Hello! My name is Evelyn Mansilla and I’m the Executive Director of Fotokids. First, thanks for your interest and support of Fotokids. We really couldn’t do what we do without all of your support.
I’ve been with Fotokids since I was 12 years-old – that’s quite a few years! But I wanted to tell you more about who I am, my background growing up, how Fotokids changed my life, and why each and every day I could not be prouder of the work we’re doing. I hope my story helps you better understand the power and impact of Fotokids.
I was raised to “live my family’s destiny” of poverty and working in the dump
I am the oldest of five children and when I was a young child learned to look for toys and food in the garbage dump of Guatemala City. My grandmother raised pigs and one of my chores was to look after them when they went to feed at the dump.
I learned from my mother that women are supposed to maintain the home. She also taught me to be submissive, to think that I couldn’t do the things that a man could. To be a realist in her eyes meant I was not to dream about having a nice house or an extraordinary future because I was born into poverty and destined to live my family’s destiny. There was nothing that could be done about it.
My life changed immediately upon joining Fotokids
When I was 12 years old, I joined Fotokids. For me it meant discovering a new world; I could use a camera to show my environment from my perspective, and at the same time it opened me up to entirely new horizons. During my first year with Fotokids I started to develop more and more self-confidence. At first I was afraid to get close to people to take a photo. I liked to hide behind the camera, click quickly, and move along. It was later on I discovered that every instant, every moment that affected me in my photographs was etched in my heart.
I learned through Fotokids that I could dream big and achieve those dreams
During this process that I call self-discovery, it made me realize I could do a lot more than care for pigs! I could show the world what I was seeing through my own eyes. I could express myself without fear. But what was truly amazing and humbling was how people perceived my work. The first time that one of my photos was in an exhibition, I couldn’t believe that people called me a star. ME, that girl that only recently learned I had a voice through my photographs. I felt great. And from that point on, I could take control of my own future. I could dream, plan, and have big goals.
After three years in Fotokids I was given the opportunity to travel to Spain, a country with a culture completely different from mine. I was able to share this experience with other children from the Sahara, London, and Granada. I had always dreamed about what it would be like to fly in a plane but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have the opportunity to travel twice to Spain as well as Australia, London, and California.
My education was so important to me so I want to educate others too
I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. I was also the first in the Fotokids group to graduate from high school, as well as the first to go to university where I studied journalism. I started teaching photography classes to younger children in the Fotokids program when I was 14 years old and teaching is one of the things that fulfills me as a human being. There’s something so special about sharing my knowledge with others, especially young people who have bursting creativity. I am certain this knowledge will help them afford the opportunities similar to what I have been lucky enough to have.
I continue to give Fotokids my all, enabling others to change their futures
I am now married and have two daughters. I am the Executive Director of Fotokids and I continue giving classes in photography, video, graphic design creative writing, and gender studies.
Fotokids really spun my life around. It wasn’t simply giving a child a camera and showing them how to use it. It was giving a child like me the opportunity to discover themselves. To know that regardless of what our present circumstances or what might path we might take, we are valuable and we can change our future. The Fotokids scholarship program offers economic support from primary through the university, allowing talented, creative, driven young people discover themselves and achieve their dreams. Learning to think and see, get an education, acquire a vocation, and parental involvement is what makes Fotokids such a successful and integrated program. And I couldn’t be more proud of everyone in Fotokids.
Thank you very much for your support of Fotokids, and for helping others discover themselves and realize they can dream so much bigger and achieve so much more than they ever could have thought.