San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Photos by Abandoned Kids Explore Identity

THE July 23 opening of “NuestroMundo: Fotografías por Niños Costarricenses”(Our World: Photographs by CostaRican Children) at the Children’s Museumin San José marked the beginning of JapanWeek in Costa Rica, which celebrated 70years of diplomatic relations betweenJapan and Costa Rica. The month-longexhibit offers an interesting and emotiveglimpse of the world through the eyes ofabandoned children.Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar,Japanese Ambassador Yoshihiko Sumi andproject coordinator Sonia León opened theexhibit to the public.“This is an important exhibit, andmakes us realize the children’s true potentialand creativity,” Sumi said. “I am veryhappy about the project, as it maintains thespirit of cooperation between our twocountries.”THE photographs exhibited weretaken by children from Hogar María, achildren’s home in the eastern suburb ofSan Pedro de Montes de Oca. León, a photographerand a lawyer, directed the projectseeking to help the children learnabout themselves and understand theirsurroundings.“These children wonder about theirparents,” León said. “I believe this is a wayto show them that they are really loved andcared for.”The project’s team of volunteers includedmembers of the Ship for World YouthAlumni Association (Costa Rica-Japan), agroup of former participants in the Ship forWorld Youth global youth-exchange program,as well as psychologist Ana Yency,who said the project “has helped the childrenidentify themselves, and is an excellentform of therapy for them.”CARRIED out from September toNovember of last year, the project consistedof five one-hour sessions exploring theconcept of identity; the exhibit is organizedaccordingly. The children, whose agesrange from as young as 2 to 10, were eachgiven a disposable camera “so they coulddiscover and show us their world throughtheir photographs,” León said.Following the theme of Japanese culture,the children were taken to OkayamaPark in San Francisco de Dos Ríos, east of San José, to explore the concept of “Meand My Community,” using their disposablecameras.“There is a photo (in the exhibit) that atwo-year-old child took that day,” Leónexplained. “He just picked up the cameraand took a photo of what he felt wasimportant to him.”The photo is an image of the child’s“auntie” caught unawares, shying awayfrom the camera, and is titled “This Is MyAuntie; She Looks after Me Every Day.”LEÓN and the volunteers clearly careabout these assertive, intelligent and happychildren.“Which is your favorite photograph?”León asked one of the children. He quicklyresponded, “Mine, of course!”León feels the project is “much morethan art,” and hopes the photographs willhave an impact on society.“The exhibit is there to create moreawareness and support in a society wherethe less fortunate children of Costa Ricaare voiceless,” she said.Following the success of the project,León and the group are hoping to create aprogram to help children express themselvesthrough dance and music.The exhibit will run through Aug. 23 atthe Children’s Museum (258-4929), whichis open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday toFriday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdaysand Sundays. Admission costs ¢500 (about$1) for children and ¢800 ($1.70) foradults during the week, and ¢600 ($1.25)for children and ¢900 ($1.90) for adults onweekends.For more information about the Shipfor World Youth, visit

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