Meet Yumalai-Julie Collins Photography
“I felt very afraid and disoriented, especially when our next-door neighbor’s garage roof blew off. It was horrible. The winds would push the windows and the water entered into our living room and bathroom. We covered our ears because the wind blew so strong it would plug them up. We couldn’t sleep. Many neighbors lost their homes. When the hurricane passed we came outside and it felt like a part of me was gone or broken. We had to go to other towns hours away to retrieve water. These trips wasted our gas. We would have to go into town to gas stations or the bank and the lines would have 100 or more people waiting. Sometimes when it was our turn there wouldn’t be any more money or gas. It was really hard and (we felt) desperate to go through all of that. People would be starving because they didn’t have the money for food or the tools to make food. We had to wash our clothes with rain water. There was no light (electricity) for six months. It was the worst time of my life. I thought it would never end.”
Eleven-year-old Yumalai Rosado Vega wrote this passage to explain her experience after Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 hurricane, made direct landfall on her homeland of Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. It was a day that is forever ingrained in her young mind as a complete life-altering moment.
Her mother, Marlyn, says, “we had to remain in our flooded home for a week because there was no path to town due to all of the landslides, fallen trees and ruination of homes making the road impassable. The supermarkets had no food to sell. We waited almost a month for supplies and bottled water to arrive.”
Hurricane Maria knocked out Puerto Rico’s power, water and cellular service, leaving the island in the dark for the rest of September as well as many months that followed. While most power and water service has been restored now, thousands of people remain without electricity more than eight months after the storm hit.
“It took two and a half weeks to communicate with my husband’s family in the United States. They helped us by sending money for airline tickets,” explains Marlyn. Being U.S. citizens (as all Puerto Ricans are) made travel to the mainland possible for their family.
Despite the fear, destruction and devastation she and her family faced, Yumalai found refuge and joy in helping others. Even when she was confused and depressed to see the island and her home in the condition they were she persevered by getting involved. She joined a church group that helped deliver food to others who were suffering. She loves to serve others in need. Seeing their smiles filled her with joy. Yumalai is loving, courageous and kind. Marlyn says of her daughter, “she takes a difficult situation as an example to move forward, always trusting God above all things. The living conditions were not easy for her but she found peace in watching her people unite and attempt to recover.”
Short Bio of Photographer
Julie Collins is an award-winning portrait photographer and the artist behind Julie Collins Photography, based in Southern Wisconsin. Her images are characterized by bold color and authentic emotion. Her work has been recognized by the worldwide photography community. Candid “in the moment” photographs touch her heart deepest and what feeds her passion for storytelling through her lens.