Meet Lidia – Our Founder and Executive Director
At the age of 21, I came to the United States from Romania seeking a better education and a better life.
As I look back, I see the craziness of it all as I did not know a single soul when I came to this country but I also recognize that it was all fate.
At 29, when I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter, I have started to have numerous health problems. A very rare but relatively easy to treat intestinal infection, caused me to be hospitalized for 2 months with very little hope that I would make it alive. When your pain is so bad that you can only look up at the ceiling and hope that with another ticking of the clock the morning will be there, and somebody will come and visit you and talk to you in hopes that it will take your mind away from your excruciating pain, you learn a lot about life, about priorities, about wanting to give back.
Through what can only be explained as a miracle, I recovered and three months later, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. This life event was not without problems, however. You could see her heart beating over the thin layer of skin that was covering what was supposed to be the sternum. She was just 7 weeks when she had to have extensive surgery, numerous tests, countless nights in the hospital, travel across the country to try to find some answers and help for her problems.
What was suppose to be a very calm, bonding experience between a child and her parents transformed into a turmoil of hospital stay, medical procedures and through all of this it was the heart of a volunteer peeping in our hospital room one day asking: Can I get you a movie or do you need anything, that again put it all in perspective about one single little act of kindness means in those hard moments of our lives.
It seems that I might have had my share with hospital life, doctors and all that. Well, I guess God really wanted to give me a passion for understanding suffering, when at the age of 31 I got diagnosed with breast cancer. During the gruesome months of chemo, radiation and surgeries yet again I was able to learn what human compassion is.
Strange as it might seem cancer gave me courage I never had before. With my new found courage I begged my husband to get me a DSLR camera for Christmas. During the chemo and radiation months I remember I would lay in bed, computer, camera, photoshop books all next to me and with a very determined ambition I got the camera to take a properly exposed picture in manual. And in most books this is where the happy ending part goes. Not in my book yet. A few months later an even more terrible motorcycle accident left my 30-year-old brother crippled for life. And as surreal is it may seem 6 months later, when everybody was getting ready to celebrate Christmas I got a phone call in the middle of the night that my dad had passed away. A healthy man was taken in just hours by a virus that wrought his body to the point that he couldn’t fight back.
I had a very difficult time processing my father’s death and I gave up photography for a few month but the love for photography did not die but I appreciated it even more while browsing though the only memories I had of my father: pictures. I eventually went back into the business and found my heart craving to do a greater good with my work. I wanted to give back through my passion: photography.
That’s when I came upon Kate Mcrae’s blog. A little 5-year-old girl fighting brain cancer.
I flew all the way from Texas to Arizona to meet Kate and her family and I got to spend a few days with this amazing family. I had no idea that on the same plane with me was a puppy somebody got as a gift for Kate. I was able to make it to Kate’s house before the puppy, was there so I was able to capture those first moments of pure and uncensored happiness in a child’s eyes when they get their first puppy.
The response I got once I posted those pictures on my blog was overwhelming. Emails from photographers telling me how inspired they were, emails from parents letting me know that because of those pictures they hug their children more, emails from strangers letting me know that all of a sudden their problems are not so big anymore and now they appreciate the little things in life.
I wanted to reach out across the country to help families who were going through their own heartaches. I wanted to help families whose medical bills were overwhelming them and in most cases would not be able to afford such treasures of art. I also knew that photography was not only to capture these strong and brave children but also to tell stories, stories of hope, stories of courage, and stories of inspiration.
That’s how Tiny Sparrow Foundation came into my mind and into my heart. I found vendors and people willing to donate their time, money and resources to grow this organization that was and is going to touch lives and capture memories everywhere. I look back on my life and see the path that has led me to this point. It has been a long hard road but I know that life has finally come full circle.