Photographer makes heartbreaking discovery while documenting Honolulu's homeless
HONOLULU, HI (WTXF) -- Diana Kim's life hasn't been easy.
The photographer and law student's father left the family when she was very young, and as a result, they spent the early years of her life moving around, according to Viralnova.
They stayed with friends and relatives, and even had to find shelter in cars or make do in parks.
However, Kim was able to get back on her feet and established a stable home in Honolulu, Hawaii with her husband and her two sons.
As for her father - the only thing she had left of him was her love of photography.
Inspired by her own struggles during her childhood, Kim began pursuing a career in law and advocacy, focusing on the homeless.
So, she created a campaign called The Homeless Paradise. It aims to raise awareness of the city's homeless concern through photographs and interviews conducted with the homeless population.
One day, while working she walked by a homeless man dressed in ratty clothing, emaciated, and clearly suffering from a mental illness.
According to Viralnova, Diana instantly recognized him.
"I gravitated towards the homeless because in some ways I identified with their struggle," she explained. "I knew what it meant to be discarded, to be neglected, and to not have the stability and economic freedom I wanted. Overall, I understood their struggle because I struggled in the same way."
Then, Diana made an earthshattering discovery.
The man was her father.
Viralnova reports that Kim's father had been stationed at a street corner for days on end. He was reportedly staring into space or arguing with nothing at all.
And even more heartbreaking, he didn't even recognize his own daughter.
Kim attempted to talk to him, but a pedestrian walking by and unaware of their relation said, "Don't bother. He has been standing there for days."
Kim said that she responded with, "I have to try."
Kim attempted to reach her father at that very same corner for the next two years, but her father was suffering from severe schizophrenia and she couldn't get through.
He refused to eat, wear the new clothes Kim brought for him, or even to seek help.
Kim was at a loss for what measures to take, and even though he wasn't around when she was a child, she was not going to give up on him.
But then one day in October 2014, someone found Kim's father lying face down in the street and called an ambulance. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition, but it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to him.
The care he received in the hospital caused a transformation within him, and when Kim came to visit they had their first real conversation in years.
"I walked away feeling lighter that day," Kim said.
From there, Kim's father began to get better.
His schizophrenia was a daily struggle, and he had good days and bad days, but began using medication and going to therapy to manage it.
And his relationship with Kim began to improve as well.
She wrote on her blog after meeting with him following his treatment, "I feel like I just met my father for the first time today."
Viralnova reports that Kim's father has started looking for work, reached out to reconnect with friends, and is even planning a trip to visit family in South Korea.
And this experience has made Kim even more passionate about helping the homeless and those with mental illness in her community.
"Every day is a gift," she said. "Some days are more challenging than others, but seeing my father in the flesh is a constant reminder of the strength of the human spirit and how precious life is. So long as we are alive in this world, every day is an opportunity to take hold of that 'second chance.' There is no failure unless you give up, and he never gave up. And I haven't given up on him."
You can learn more about Diana Kim's efforts to raise awareness about homelessness on the Homeless Paradise website, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
Photography website: dianakimphotography.com/#1