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Choose carefully…


Cobwebs in a field at sunrise, Kent, England

I was walking in a busy street in Shanghai looking at the thousands of people around me when a thought invaded my mind and grew into a dwelling on the subject of choice.

Life is an infinite web of possible roads we can take and at any moment we are confronted with a choice: do we cross the road, do we go into a shop, do we stay at home, do we travel, do we walk faster, do we marry a person, do we take a job or leave it, do we live in country or another, do we speak or keep a secret,… and it goes on and on. And with every choice we make, we decide the next segment of our destiny here on earth. Choice is one of the greatest gifts that we humans have and one of our heaviest responsibilities. What if we make the wrong choice that leads us to a life of difficulty? What if we are ignorant and not able to make an informed choice? What if we allow ourselves to be like sheep driven by other’s choices and we just move along with the going current?

Don’t choices and freedom go hand in hand? How free are we really? How much of our lives are dictated by obligations and conformities to society, politics, religion, family, ignorance?

What about our children? Those who cannot yet choose for themselves. Do we make the right choices on their behalf?


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Bubbles, bubbly bubbles!

Why bubbles, what is the magic of bubbles? Why is it the most selling toy in the world? Why do children love bubbles so much and open their eyes wide when they see them, chase after them, try to catch them, watch them pop, and they can do that every day!

An amazing phenomenon of nature, they  have been around since the beginning of creation. They have been there since the first bubble supposedly popped and formed the first galaxy. Scientists call them “minimal surface structures’ because they hold the most gas or liquid inside them using the minimum surface area. And that sounds all too complicated..

For a child it is simply magic! It is a bubble, a round, reflective, colorful, fragile, flying, magical ball that they love to play with anytime.

Don’t you love bubbles too? Something about them makes us smile with wonder…

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How can I love you this much?


It is so beyond reason the depth and power of love we feel for our children.

From the moment that  I felt the first kick of my daughter in my womb, I remember I was driving my car in Duesseldorf, Germany and I felt an uncontrollable surge of emotion so strong that forced me into sobs of joy. I had to park the car and try to control myself and to comprehend what I was feeling.

Are we programmed to love them so much as a guarantee that we will be there for them during their helpless days?

Are we bound to our child with some invisible golden string that transfers a current of love from them to our hearts?

And they deserve nothing less. They are the greatest gift that is entrusted to us to care for, prepare for planetary life, shield, educate and eventually do the most important task of all, to let them go…

My favorite quote from the most amazing Lebanese author Jibran Khalil Jibran, “your children are not yours, your children are the children of life”

In the meantime, while my daughter is still 6, I can enjoy her days of dependence on me, her innocence, her hugs, her love and her wonderful intimate closeness.

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Imagine a life so simple…

Imagine a life so simple

life in a little house on the lake

it is warm enough not to need any clothes

your toys are a little boat and a stick

no television, no video games, no ipods,

imagine that!

your school is on a boat and it floats

your playground is made of water and sky

your world is empty of complications,

you are not nagging to get the latest toy,

you don’t even know that it even exists,

because your life is so unimaginable simple…


Photos taken at sunset on a little floating village on the Tonle Sap in the kingdom of Cambodia

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How do we unlock their future potential?

Photographs are funny things. They can capture the state that you and your subject were in when you clicked the photo, and each time you look at it again, you are magically transported to that moment and it all returns, the smells, the weather, the sounds, the colors, and your emotional state at that time.

This photograph was during my last day with the children at CCPP ( The Cambodia Children’s Painting Project) in Sihanoukville. It was very hot and very humid like every other day I experienced there. I remember thinking that it is going to be so difficult to leave this place. The smiles, giggles and joy of the children were so contagious and so attractive to be with.

But on that day, this boy caught my attention in such a different way. He was not painting, not laughing, not smiling and not even remotely aware of the camera or me as I photographed him for at least 5 minutes. He seemed so engrossed in his thoughts, thoughts that were perhaps too much for him to handle. I wondered for a long time and remained haunted by his look, by his state. He seemed to be locked in his own bubble of sadness.

I so wished I had magic dust, a wand, a circus, or anything that would take away his pain.

Children are meant to be protected, cared for, shielded from pain, allowed to be children. Whenever I see a child having to meet the pains of adulthood it tears me apart. I always think of my child and how I would do anything in the world to protect her from hurtful experiences. Doesn’t every child deserve the same parental shielding? Aren’t children coded with the potential of our future? It is so crucial that we help them, that we allow them to become who they are meant to be. I am always so grateful and in awe of people that I meet who dedicate their life, efforts and talents to help children in need.

Such a glory is found in the giving where a gift is needed. Such an honor it is to give respect and value to the potential of a child and to be an instrument in unlocking it. And whatever this child is doing now, I hope he is smiling and being a child.

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Eyes that tell a story

A friend told me recently that when they see photos of children from countries like Cambodia, they cannot help but see the difference between their eyes and the eyes of western raised children.

This is so true. And what is it about eyes? They are the first thing we meet normally in a person, the first thing we seek to connect to when we want to know someone. They seem to be a doorway or gateway of some kind.

Love needs the eyes to pass its messages. Most of us remember getting chills when we looked into the eyes of someone we loved for the first time and held their gaze. We often say we felt something pass between our eyes and our loved one’s eyes.

The eyes hold power and can transfer that power to another person quite easily. They can do what the voice cannot. Their message is deeper and much more subtle.

You can tell so much about a person from the way their eyes “act”. If you watch the show “lie to me”, you may be fascinated by the stories eyes can reveal. Eyes that shy away from yours, eyes that stare you down with determination, shifty eyes, blinking eyes, eyes that don’t blink, piercing eyes, shallow eyes…

And yes, there is a huge difference between the look and power in the eyes of the children I met in Cambodia or in Congo and the eyes of our western children. The stories this girl’s eyes told me went soul deep and were desperate to be told. Eyes that saw too much and want to tell it because it is just too much to bear.

This is a little girl that has to sell to survive, has to learn a few words of English to be able to communicate with the strange “rich” tourists, hoping to charm them into buying so she  and her parents can have rice for the week. Her play time is cut short. Her innocence is hijacked. Of course her eyes are not the same. How could they be?

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More than one reason to smile…

Sombath Srey Toch is a 13 year old girl who has been coming to the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project for two years. Srey Toch never smiled when she first started coming and she had no good reason to. Her mother died leaving her and her brother to the care or rather abuse of an older father who drinks heavily, is unemployed after a job related injury and beats Srey Toch and her brother regularly.

She also lost her front teeth and therefore was very shy to show her smile.

As part of what CCPP does, Srey  Toch received free dental work that fixed her front teeth. And a contract was made with the abusive father that promises him help with his home rent (and home is a one room and one bed that the whole family shares), and some weekly rice allowance if he refrains from hitting his children.

And of course the daily painting sessions bring a glowing smile to Srey Toch. Every time I saw her at the center she gave me one of these beaming smiles that should never have been hidden in the first place.

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So hard to leave you behind.. part 2

It is time again to take a trip for BY ART WE LIVE, this time to Cambodia. I will be meeting with underprivileged children who take refuge in Art. The project I plan to visit is CCPP (the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project) in Sihanoukville.

Last October I traveled for the first time without my daughter Lea to Congo and stayed 8 days. that is when I came up with a way to give Lea a calendar so may she be always aware of how many days are left till my return. (

She had loved that idea so much that I am repeating it for this trip. Every day she will have a bag with a date on it that she can open. Each bag has a surprise and a note for her. She will look forward to every bag she opens that will bring her closer to the day I come home.

I love my child do much and I wish that all children in the world can be loved and treasured as they were meant to be. I watch her now as I write this playing her piano so engrossed in what she is doing and then standing up amazed that she can see what looks like silver rain outside the window. She wants to know what this is and if she can catch it.

I will miss dear little Lea in the next 10 days but I will be with her through other children, through mystery, through Art and through my little daily messages to her.

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So hard to leave you behind…

It is so exciting to be going on a trip like this.. going to an unknown place armed with my cameras, my dreams, my wish to try and make a difference. It is what I have always dreamt of doing, and what I promised myself I would do.

But a big part of my heart stays at home with you Lea. I don’t know how traveling mothers can do that again and again, and I don’t know if it ever gets easier.I had to get creative and work out a way for her to be excited about the process of waiting for me to come back. So I made a calendar of sorts, with bags dated for each day that I am away. She will open her surprise bags daily and count down till the day I am back. She just loved the idea and it gave her such a safety to know exactly how many days she had to wait and that each day held a small surprise inside a closed bag with a number on it.

And still when I think of where I am going in a few hours, Congo, where I will meet with children who were robbed of their right to innocence and whose childhood was hijacked by those who have motives that do not consider the rights of children; I think that my little 5 year old Lea is very lucky. One day I hope she will fully understand it.