By Bricio Segovia
NEW YORK – After traveling around 19 states on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Dominican-born photographer Gustavo Fernandez ended in New York a trip during which he photographed families in exchange for their promise to sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic.
“Growing up in the Dominican Republic, from the time I was a child I saw the nation’s poverty,” Fernandez said in an interview with Efe.
On his Harley, Fernandez has crossed the U.S. from coast to coast in 28 days, his only companion the camera with which he has shot portraits of 18 families.
In exchange for the photos, each family promised to sponsor at least one child in the Dominican Republic for a year.
“The parents of the sponsored children earn no more than $100 a month, and without economic aid from sponsors, those kids would have no future,” the photographer said.
Through the “HOG for Kids” project, Fernandez hopes to meet the medical and educational needs of children living a life of poverty.
Since leaving his home in Pleasantville, California, the motorcyclist has obtained sponsorship for 20 children through programs of the beneficent organization Children International.
Fernandez, 33, said that the project combines his three passions: riding his Harley, photographing families and helping poor kids.
“I’ve seen from the Arizona desert to the Colorado mountains to the skyscrapers of New York, though the greatest experience has been meeting new families that will support the cause of my trip,” he said.
Fernandez, who is doing this humanitarian work without any other economic support than whatever the families he photographs voluntarily offer him, is currently getting ready to spend several months in his native Dominican Republic.
There he will undertake a two-week photographic shoot to capture the lives of kids being sponsored through his project.
“The photos will show the kids in their natural surroundings, at home, playing in their neighborhoods, working or at school, and will reflect their daily needs as well as their human potential,” the photographer said.
The intrepid motorcyclist, who shares his experience on the road through the project’s Web site, www.hogforkids.com, will repeat the project next year.
Determined to get a minimum of 50 sponsorships, Fernandez is now planning to help children from a different country each year.
“The end result of this project will be helping 50 poor kids grow up healthy, educated and ready to meet the challenges of adult life and at the same time raise awareness around the world about childhood poverty,” he said. EFE