I Am Waters Foundation

Today is 09.24.2016

Houston – 2009

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Peter and I had the privilege of photographing at Covenant House, Texas, thanks to Rhonda Robinson.

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Elena and Rhonda

Covenant House, Texas was just as wonderful as our experience at C.H. New Orleans. Our time was easy, relaxed and filled with dozens of teenage kids laughing, playing, jumping around and joking with C.H. staff, Peter and me. An immediate feeling of unity and family quickly surrounded the shoot. There is nothing like a camera (maybe, Karioke) that illuminates and animates people, faster. While we met a many interesting kids with varied backgrounds at Covenant House, the person the story emerges from is Rhonda Robinson, the director. Rhonda presides over the residents with nothing less than the love of a mother.

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Smile!

Rhonda supervised our shoot, took care of C.H. business while fielding questions from the kids and guiding them to their next task or appointment. The day played out and was executed by Rhonda with presence of mind, leadership, love, patience and humor. I was fortunate to have had some time alone with Rhonda and was given the opportunity to share my story with her and what it was in my heart that drove me back to the streets. I listened carefully as she revealed her personal philosophy and how she faced life and interfaced with some of the things that life had asked of her on and off the job. My last question for her was; what kept her at Covenant House Texas for 25 years?

Over the course of her tenure, kids arrived due to various circumstances and reasons. Whomever stays, goes to school, get’s a job and follows the rules. As a result of having structure and some stability, the outcome more often than not is a kid who matures and moves on to have a life that is more productive and fulfilling.

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Keep your eye on the prize

Then there were stories about the kids who didn’t make it; the kids who she’d gone to the morgue in the middle of the night to identify in the absence of a parent to claim them, a child who had either fallen victim to a violent crime or had taken their own life. The stories Rhonda shared with me regarding the kids were tragic and inspirational, with a world in between the two points that weaved Rhonda’s personal journey, and the history of invaluable support that C.H. has provided for thousands of kids.

For a second I reflected back to my own childhood and felt perplexed as to why or how I didn’t end up a statistic. But more intriguing to me was Rhonda and what was going on inside of her that fortified her with the courage to meet the needs and responsibilities of the sacred young lives that she touched everyday. The curiosity at the core of my original question was how she managed to last for two and a half decades at a job that required ALL of her; body, heart and soul, and managed to have a beautiful smile on her face? She simply replied “God!” That she was where God wanted her to be and that’s where her heart was.

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Hope

….don’t ever let anyone stop you from your dreams…you hear me? Never forget that!

There are only a few people in my life that I have met and had immediate, unquestioning, inexplicable love for; Rhonda is one of them. It’s her and the feeling of well being that one gets from being next to her; a sense that you’re alright and that everything is going to be alright. When the shoot was over and all had been loaded in the car, I went back to say good-bye to Rhonda, which was a bit of a task through my river of tears. I couldn’t manage to say good-bye to her, only thank you. She looked at me as though she were talking to one of her kids and said “Now, don’t you ever let anyone tell you, you can’t do something, don’t ever let anyone stop you from your dreams…..you hear me? Never forget that!” And I wont. I will never forget that or Ms. Robinson.

- Elena Davis

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