My heart pounded as my computer mouse hovered over the words “plan a video shoot in Mexico” in the job description. Was this even real? I had been searching for weeks for the perfect internship; one that would allow me to practice my videography skills, get experience working for a real company, and—more than anything—would push me out of my comfort zone and allow me to use my gifts for a purpose bigger than myself. The videography intern position for A Child’s Hope Foundation would let me do all of those things and more. I needed this internship more than anything. With college graduation approaching in the next year, and a slew of resume builders being cancelled due to COVID-19, this internship was the opportunity that would allow me to build the experiences needed to land a job out of college. I pressed the apply button before I even finished reading the job description.
Months later, as I sat in the backseat of a 12-seater van driving through southern California, my head was full of worries. After weeks of planning the details for the projects I was going to shoot, I was finally on my way to Mexico and anxiety pervaded my every thought. What if I forgot to record a really important piece of footage? Would my years of learning Spanish in school be enough to get by? Was I even qualified enough to do this? The pressures of being a one-woman camera crew, a solo traveler, and a representative of a charity I had only worked for for a few months got into my head. I’d heard horror stories of kidnappings in Mexico and other stories of people who had signed up for service trips with organizations that weren’t truthful about their missions. Was I about to put myself in a potentially life-altering situation? As our van full of volunteers and A Child’s Hope staff pulled into the driveway of Rancho de los Niños, the weeks of compounding worries began to be put to rest. I quickly began to realize that the situation I had put myself in was life altering, but in the best way possible.
“This is not what I expected”
We were met by enthusiastic waving hands and the smiling faces of staff and children who lived at the orphanage. Children were running around the playground and laughing as they chased one another. The space was sprawling, with toys and playground equipment everywhere I looked, and plenty of adult supervision to ensure safety. The smell of fresh tortillas baking in the kitchen filled the air, and the colorful landscape of vibrant houses and buildings on the property caught my eye. My first thoughts were, “This is not what I expected,” and I continued to have that thought over the duration of my time in Mexico. When I thought about what an orphanage in Mexico would look like, the images I envisioned were not full of this much life and color, nor this much smiling and laughter. From then on, any expectation I had about what the trip would be like was going to be exceeded.
For the next 15 days, I traveled between and stayed at five of A Child’s Hope Foundation’s partner orphanages all around the Baja California region. I spent each day documenting life at the homes through the lens of my camera, recording the stories of staff members, children, and graduates whose lives had all been changed by living at the orphanages. I heard stories of redemption and healing from years of trauma and neglect, and I saw tears of gratitude roll down many faces. I heard stories from the orphanage directors about how accepting their position was not a choice, but rather a calling from God. I saw individuals who had aged out of the orphanages come back and use their gifts and talents to provide help to the orphanage directors and to be mentors to the younger children. But over all, I heard countless stories of children who once felt like they had no one to turn to, but who now felt like a valued, accepted member of a real family for life.
I have learned that there is nothing more gratifying than using your talents to give back. One of my favorite memories of the trip happened when a child at Nuestra Familia asked me for help with a school project that included editing a video. The project was a competition that required a video presentation covering a famous Mexican. If you won the competition for the best presentation, you would get extra credit points. I recorded the child giving his presentation, and then we spent hours adding in fun graphics and other elements to the video. When we watched the final video back, the toothy smile and look of absolute pride on the child’s face was priceless. I knew that we had produced something he could be proud of, and knowing that filled me with so much happiness. Something that most other children would see as a chore was a source of immense accomplishment for him.
Joining a second family
One of the most touching aspects of my trip was experiencing firsthand how tightly knit the orphanages operate. Each one functions like a family, with the orphanage directors acting like mothers and fathers who love and care for each of the kids like one of their own children. The kids treated each other like siblings, helping one another with whatever was needed and looking out for each other at all times. I think many people, including myself before this trip, place a negative connotation on the word “orphanage.” Based on what we see in the media, orphanages are cold, institution-like facilities void of happiness and love. I realized that I had been ignorant to the fact that not all orphanages are bad, because while this may be true in some locations around the world, the orphanages I had the pleasure of staying at could not be more opposite. They resembled any normal family, with normal family activities and plenty of love to go around for each member of the family. And when I was there, I was a part of the family, too, and was shown more love and care than I could have ever imagined. When I left the orphanages, I was told each time, “Our home is your home now.” And when I went back to Utah when the trip was over, my heart felt homesick already for the second family I had gained in Baja.
My time in Mexico taught me to expect the unexpected but know that the unexpected was what was meant to be. Was it always perfect? No, it was far from it. There was the time where I forgot to start the audio recording during an interview with an orphanage director and we had to do the entire interview again the next day. Or there was the time when I was flying a drone over an orphanage and it got disconnected from my cell phone, flying without control over the bustling streets of Tijuana, all while a crowd of children stood around me and laughed. There were many other times when things didn’t go as planned, but I learned to accept all of the unplanned as a part of the greater experience. And through all of it, I was consistently treated with so much patience, grace, and hospitality from everyone I met in Mexico. When I could have been treated as an outsider, I was welcomed in as a member of the family.
When my mistakes and requests could have been an annoyance, they were taken as a privilege for everyone that helped me with my projects. When my worries and questions could have been a bother, they were instead kindly responded to with grace and love. The children and adults living at the orphanages were grateful that their stories were going to be told, but I felt even more grateful to have had the opportunity to share them in the first place.
Listen to your calling
If you take away anything from my experiences, know that—no matter what your gifts are—you can use them to help others. My experiences this summer taught me that no amount of anxiety, doubt, or emotional exhaustion can outweigh the fulfillment I felt from giving a voice to the voiceless through film. There is a need for your gifts out there, too, and there are people who could greatly benefit from what you have to offer. Anytime you offer your skills to give back to the world in some way, your life will be blessed more than you can imagine, just like mine has been. And I know first hand that it won’t be perfect and will be far from what you expected. It’s going to be messy. Any time you pour your passions into a cause that is the outcome of a broken world, your heart will be shattered, and broken, and you will become emotionally exhausted, too. But most often, those experiences are the ones that will break your heart in a way that changes the way you live your life forever. So take the chance, listen to your calling, and go into it willing to be rocked to your core.
If you’re interested in seeing the videos I produced this summer, check out our YouTube Channel.
We’re looking for our next videography intern! Read the job description and apply below.