"I became close to some mothers. We laughed a lot together. I'd watch their joyful spirits slowly drain away, and I'd wonder: How much can a person take before they break? They were incredibly strong," she says.
For emotional release, she and her fellow volunteers would escape on weekends, exploring the temples at Angkor Wat or relaxing on the beaches of Thailand.
Farmer took very few pictures on those side trips. Her focus was on the children whose dark-eyed faces haunt her photographs.
Cambodia changed her, she says. She is wiser, sadder, stronger. She has learned that one person can make a difference. And she knows where she wants to go next: Back to San Francisco, where she plans to exhibit her photographs, raise awareness about the hospital's needs and volunteer programs -- and start thinking about her next trip abroad.
For the children in her pictures, the future is less bright.
"Some of these kids are still there, still in the same beds," she says. "They're there whether I'm taking pictures or not."
Jean Patteson can be reached at or 407-420-5158.
First photo ran on page F1.
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