‘It was such a revelation, seeing this pandemic play out’

National Geographic Explorer Hannah Reyes Morales uses her photography to explore themes of resilience in life and tenderness in adversity.

A swaddled child sleeps in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Over the past few years I’ve been working on “Living Lullabies,” my project on how caregivers create safer spaces for their children through nighttime song and story.

My reporting partner, Rupert Compston, and I went to the Turkish-Syrian border; for refugee and migrant families there, lullabies were a piece of home that they could take with them, almost as portable sanctuaries. We went to Liberia, where we spoke with young mothers who’d had their babies as teenagers, and saw how they were singing hope in their lullabies. Then we visited Mongolia, one of the coldest places in the world. To heat their homes, nomadic families would burn coal, which of course pollutes the air. We met a mother who sang lullabies with healing words when her children were sickened by the air.

Those were the places we had gone to, and we had a plan for the rest of the story. But we had to shift to address this experience that we’re all going through, the pandemic. I got to see what making safe spaces looks like in real time, with parents helping their children navigate swiftly changing environments.

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