More than just a photograph, irrefutable proof.
It was three weeks ago when a woman named Carolina called me to denounce abuses inside the Pequeño Cottolengo shelter in the city of Quintero, near Valparaiso. The shelter is part of a chain of homes for mentally handicapped children and youths run by the Catholic Church. Carolina had been working there only three months.
I met with her and saw photos that she had taken with her cell phone during the different shifts she worked there. One of the images showed very clearly the bruises caused by the beating of a young girl, a girl too handicapped to defend herself. Others showed the obvious effects of malnutrition on one young boy.
I asked her if it was possible to take more images, and she answered that she was willing to face all the consequences, including losing her job, to be able to help the children.
I thought that this matter couldn’t wait and it must be made public through solid proof of the abuses. It wasn’t easy to get evidence from inside an isolated shelter where the children are closed in with almost no windows and just one door, as if in a bunker. My editor at Reuters saw the cell phone photos and we spoke of the way to move forward. With the involvement of minors, things get complicated when their faces are shown, and the range of legal issues that can arise.
We decided to not rush the story and with that in mind I met again with Carolina and loaned her a pocket camera that belongs to my daughter. It was the quickest lesson in photography that I ever gave. Luckily Carolina assimilates technology easily and understood the differences in light. I made sure the camera’s date and time were correct, in the event of any doubts of the moment the pictures would be taken.