The Nurse-Family Partnership project team and I are transforming a conference room at the Department of Public Health in Martinez, California into a professional photo studio. Lighting, check. Backdrop, check. Makeup, check. Craft services, (well, more like snack table) check. Publicity forms, check. Entertainment for the kiddos, check. Photographer, check. Make-up artist, check. We’re set. Now we wait for the talent to arrive.

We’re creating marketing collateral for upcoming partner meetings and want to capture portraits of the NFP moms, along with a goal they’ve been working to achieve with the help of their nurse. We’re hoping that these portraits will put a face to  the goal-setting work so integral to the NFP program. We realize it’s a big ask to get moms to take time out of their day to take a photo for us. They’re all busy – they’ve got young kids, many are juggling work and school. But we really need them to show up for this photo shoot, so we offer something beyond the usual compensation we provide for focus group participation – a family portrait session.

We take turns holding babies and entertaining toddlers so the moms can have their makeup done. Several of them remark that this is the first time in months they’ve had a moment to themselves. The moms have brought adorable outfits for their little ones; the whole process clearly makes them feel special. At the end of the photo session, we invite them to select their favorite pictures for high-quality prints.

One of the unique things about working at Hopelab (or any of The Omidyar Group philanthropies for that matter), is the attention to embodying our founders’ Pam and Pierre’s values; I feel this so deeply, today especially. Pam always talks about how people can improve their lives and that of their community if given the right access and opportunities. While family portraits may not change lives in themselves, this experience feels special and may be life changing in the moment. These photos tell stories of strength, resilience, happiness, sadness, struggle, accomplishment, and love. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

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