Sometimes just by doing the things you love, you can change the world, and not even know it. Such was the case for Dr. Pablo Ortiz and humanitarian
photographer Michele Zousmer
, and publisher Maggie Gray.
In 2013, I was producing a travelogue in Costa Rica and Panama called Myste Buzzed on Paradise. It was about an avid coffee lover who set out to find the perfect cup of coffee in the best coffee regions of Central America. While shooting in each location, there was one recurring theme: infants and little children working in the coffee fields in the blazing hot sun with their parents. They had no shoes, wore ragged clothing and lacked the very basics of life. In my memory, it was haunting. I have work with poor kids before, but nothing like this. As I reviewed the horrible child labor conditions in Costa Rica, I promised myself that one day I would return and find those children, find out what was going on, and tell their story.
Well three years pass, and I had done nothing towards that goal. THEN, I had a life altering experience that caused me to repurpose my life. SO, I started up a Foundation called FAR OUT KIDS, did some research, and found a very engaging, compelling, and poignant story.
My search began with an article in FEM Worldview published by Maggie Gray. With FEM Worldview, Gray gave brillant female photographers a vehicle to showcase their work. It was in this publication that I discovered Michele Zousmer. The article was entitled Children of the Coffee and featured the "Treasure of San Vito", Dr. Ortiz.
My search was over. I had found the kids I was looking for in the jungles of Central America. They are the children of the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle..
Ironically, my story actually began in 2013. While I was trodding through coffee plantation around San Jose following Myste the "coffee girl" around, Zousmer was visiting Dr. Ortiz and following him and his medical interns around shooting pictures of the children. Dr. Ortiz has been studying and working with the Ngobe for 30 years.
Those pictures were used by the US Depart of Labor on Child Labor Abuses. Shortly thereafter, those pictures and an article in FEM Worldview created a firestorm in Costa Rica that changed the lives of the children forever.
That is all I can say right now because my good friend, Academy and Emmy Award winning producer Gray Frederickson and I are producing a documentary on what has happened since those pictures were published.
I can say that Costa Rica has gone from Worst to the Best in child labor in five years..