|Sunset over Miraflores|
If asked what I took away from this trip, the first thing that comes to mind is…the elderly are not nearly as frightening as previously thought. In fact, I absolutely love the abuelos I worked with (and want to bring a few home). Saying goodbye was actually really hard! I did, actually take away a lot from them. On our last house visit we went to a home of a husband and wife in Villa that we had seen a week earlier. This is one of the particularly sad cases. The “house” is three walls with a tin roof that leaves cracks, exposing the house to the outside and threatens to collapse at any moment. The back “wall” is falling down and leads outside to the back, really, its not much. And this is the norm of what we see. Volunteers have done many projects helping to patch walls and roofs of their houses, even building walls creating a house where before it was merely a roof on some stacks of concrete. But, there’s only so much we can do, and often the houses are in shambles. When you walk into this house there is one long room that serves as a bedroom/kitchen, there’s a bathroom in the back. I won’t even begin to go into how awful those are…To your left there’s a table, and a bed where the grandmother is. She’s in her 70’s and bedridden. She has some sort of chronic respiratory problem that plagues her with coughs that shake her entire body. Her husband is a few feet away in another bed, too weak to move himself, the only time he gets out of bed is a bi-monthly hospital visit. Its depressing, for sure. We bring them supplies that have been donated to the center, and check up on them to make sure they’re doing alright. Last time we visited, the daughter told us about their son-her brother-who was sick in the hospital. This time we found out the son had died earlier that week, afraid that the news would be too much to handle, the two daughters decided to not let their parents know. The two of them carry the burden of all of this. Several times during our visit the older daughter started crying, having no place to mourn they both struggle to remain composed around their parents. They are just barely getting by. With the aid of the government and our organization, they live. Like many residents in the community they are living on around 100 soles per month, about $35. You see this all the time, here, in Africa-extreme poverty, situations so desperate you wonder how they manage to get up every morning. But what really struck me, and what I am constantly moved by, is the inner strength these people have. And how despite all of this, they welcome you fully into their homes and lives. The family support system they have is incredible. The entire extended family will come together to help each other, no matter what. We all know how important family is, I certainly know I’m blessed to have such a close-knit support system. And being here is a great reminder of just how important that is.
|Jackie on a house visit.|
I’ve touched before on reconciling what I witness in these countries. It is something I struggle with. It’s hard, and I wonder how I’m so lucky. How am I deserving of the extragent blessing of my life in the US? Simply by being born, my life, and theirs is mostly determined. How can I feel OK about how I live, when I see how they do? And know that there isn’t much I can do to help. What can you do? You let it go. You have to, and just hope by seeing what you have, that you take something away and become a better person for it. To be reminded of the importance of family, how fleeting life is. And how regardless of what happens in our lives, to if nothing else-to be a good person. To welcome others, and never judge, because you have no idea what has happened in someone else’s life. To try and stay grounded in our material driven society, and not get caught up in what doesn’t matter. I hope I can do all of this, it’s so easy to forget, to fall back into routine of our fast-paced life. Its one reason I feel like I need to leave the US annually. When telling my hairstylist what my winter plans were, she remarked, its so good to go visit these places every now and again, its like your going back to the earth. We all need to be reminded of how to live. So true.
The joy I experienced during my volunteering is incalculable. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement or experience.
|Saying goodbye to the abuelos.|
>Lovely thoughts and insights! Don't you wish all American kids from comfy communities could be required to have these kinds of experiences?! The world would be better off for it!