Sandra,
photographer by day,
activist by night,
dreamer all the rest of the time…

 
Tiny Sandra, at 9 years old.

Tiny Sandra, at 9 years old.

I grew up in Chile, during the time of a military coup, with Pinochet, one of the toughest dictatorships there has been.

My dad was a navy nurse, and because of the political climate, he was obligated to spend long periods of time in military ships out in the ocean, without any form of communication, leaving my mom in charge of everything.

This situation created the perfect scenario, so someone, with a few mental health problems, developed into an abuser.
My mom was mean, really mean.

She hit me so much that I became convinced that she would kill me, and I was afraid for my life. I started running away from home when I was only 9 years old and successfully left by 15.

At first, I lived with my grandparents, but when my grandfather died I felt once again unsafe, and left.
I started couch surfing at friends until I ran out of friends and ended up homeless.
At age 17 I had to sleep in the street, and I lived like that until I was 21.

Being homeless is hard. You don’t know where you are going to sleep or where your next meal is coming from, but it's not only hard for the obvious survival factor. It is hard because it distorts your identity, and you have to learn to be completely ignored as you lose value to society, and you feel worthless as a person.

After my years surviving in the street, Jesus intercepted my life and His spiritual teachings restored my identity.

Thanks to the generosity of church members who embraced me, found me a place to live, and supported me through the process of re-inserting myself into society, and countless hours of healing, I was able to get back on my feet.

Eventually I went to college, reconnected with my father, got a job, and I even moved to the U.S. where I got married and started a career as wedding photographer.

(But my story doesn’t end here, with “just” a happy ending….)

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As a wedding photographer, it was hard for me to witness the opulence of a wedding day contrasting my experience as a former homeless woman. I witnessed so much waste, I saw how leftover food got thrown away after every wedding, and I thought, what if instead, that food got delivered to people in need?…

A few years later, I decided that I should actually start doing this, so with the help of generous couples and caterers, I am able to collect the leftovers after every wedding and deliver them in the street to homeless people.

One day, while doing this, I noticed a group of women sitting on the curve, their faces were dirty, their hair was a mess. I remembered how many times while living in the street I had no money for shampoo or access to water.
I remembered how God’s Mercy always managed to shine through the kindness of random people, whom without knowing, fed me, dressed me and provided basic safety for me.

A few days later, I came up with a plan, and Worth Manifesto is the result of my encounter with those girls on the curve.

I was able to turn my life around, thanks to the generous support of my community. And now, I hope we can show other marginalized women that they are not their circumstances, they are worthy of love, of a clean face, of living a beautiful life, and turning their present into a future. I know that the love of a community can change someone’s life — I am living proof of that.

To learn more about my religious experience, read my full testimony, otherwise, push play in the video below :)