Humans of New York (HONY), a photography blog started by Brandon Stanton in New York City, has a knack for shedding new light on the everyday person. With every photograph, HONY captures its subject with a personal quoted caption that seems to allow us a shared sense of humanity.
Most recently, Stanton traveled to Bogotá, Colombia to meet and photograph more subjects for the blog. During his trip, he met Rose. Alongside a poignant photograph of her staring into the distance, a tear dotting the corner of her eye, Rose told her story:
“I’m starting from nothing. I lost everything in Venezuela. I had my own natural soap factory but the crisis made it impossible to get ingredients. Then the government began to take 70% of my earnings. I had to close it down. It reached a point where I couldn’t even find food for my baby. I had a little money, but there was nowhere to buy food. I’d wait in line all day for one bag of flour. We could go days without eating. When I tried to breastfeed my daughter, I’d almost faint. Leaving the country was my only chance.”
Venezuela’s economic crisis broke down Rose’s business and forced her to do something she never wanted to do in order to provide for her family: she had to leave her daughter.
Rose continued, “I’d never said ‘goodbye’ to my daughter before. She was screaming my name when I left. It hurt worse than giving birth. But I didn’t have a choice… Now I sell keychains in the street. I send packets of food back home. I’m trying to keep a good spirit. I’m doing OK. I owned three businesses once. I was the top of my class in university. But I grew up very poor. I came from nothing. So I’ve been here before.”
This heartbreaking account of a hard-working parent immediately caught fire thanks to HONY and people all around the world who knew they had to help a mother in need. Rose’s testimony immediately had viewers of HONY reaching out and asking how they could help.
After Rose was featured on Humans of New York, almost 7,000 people from all around the world pitched in to donate towards helping her start over and seeing her daughter again.
Rose has since updated HONY with a video message, in which she expresses her gratitude for every person who changed her life, saying: “Hello to all the Humans of New York. I am so thankful for everything that you’ve done for me, for all your donations, they really changed my life. I could never have expected this from life, thank you so much for your goodwill and generosity.”
Rose has since been able to greatly improve her family’s living situation as well. She mentioned that, “What all of you have done has gotten me so much closer to my dreams, of writing my book, of helping my daughter and my family. I have no words to thank you enough. I’m very happy right now and I hope that all you’ve done for me you will get back seven fold. Blessings to you, Humans of New York.”
She finishes with a meaningful, “Humans still exist and there’s people still willing to help and I’m grateful for that. I’m just speechless. I love you.”
It is notable and beautiful that she calls the donators, “all the Humans of New York,” because it highlights something important: we are all human. Something about Rose’s story touched something in every person who decided to send her help—and that is our shared humanity. Looking out for each other only makes the world warmer. As HONY has showed us, empathy lets us understand the deeply powerful knowledge that, across borders and languages, life is our shared experience. It is our job to help each other when we can.
Rose said in her initial HONY caption that when she left her daughter in Venezuela, “I told her I was going to Colombia, I was going to make a diamond, and I was going to bring it back to her.”
It seems as though Rose herself was the diamond, and with the help of HONY and generous donors everywhere, she can now finally return home to her daughter. Their reunion is a sparkling moment that will unite the thousands of people who decided to help a mother find her happy ending, while also showing the world just what every single “Human of New York” can do.
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