If there’s one person in all Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, who knows what it’s like to be out there in the streets at night, cold and hungry, that’s Pastor Joseph Moore. He personally experienced homelessness when he retired from the fire department and went through a divorce: “That’s how it got started with me, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, but that’s how I got that particular calling.” Pastor Moore now leads the Open Air Ministries, reaching out a hand for those in need, especially the homeless, clothing and feeding them literally in the open air, a parking lot. His volunteer job involves massive coordination and organization combined with preaching, caring and devotion. Continue reading
It’s not much of a science to organize a meal for 3 or 4 kids, or even 5, but what if they’re 50? Alice seems to be these kids’ mother or aunt, because she knows each of their names and talks to them with an even fondness. The Immaculate House of Mercy in Orange Walk, Belize, is the home of each of these 50 children every noon thanks to Alice’s effort and devotion; she is extremely organized, nothing eludes her planning sheets and no one gets away with eating before saying praying or washing their hands. She speaks to us in Spanish, but uses English for the kids; between them we can hear a mixture of languages that takes us by surprise: they understand both. At home Spanish is generally spoken but at school only English is allowed, which is the official language after having been an English colony up until 1981. Continue reading
When we first met Patricia it felt like talking to our own moms; she is sweet, affectionate, and treats us like her own kids even though she doesn’t know us. We knew little about her, just that she also belonged to one of the most wealthy families from Guatemala and that she had lost her husband, a very successful businessman in a tragic airplane crash, which was the kick-off together with her 3 children, of a Foundation which is improving Public Education throughout the country with technology. Continue reading
This time the road took us down trails we had never walked through in the last year, giving a new twist to our point of view, watching reality from others’ shoes and eyes. This time we were not in the outskirts of Guatemala city, but in the nicest neighbourhood, surrounded by bodyguards, new fashionable cars and sparkling works of art. Once more, Someone is taking us by the hand while we stubbornly resist, thinking we are in the wrong direction. Once more, it is us who are wrong. I t was hard to believe that someone from this environment could see past their own reality and be able to serve others from the heart, in a country so polarized in social matters as Guatemala where these opposites almost never touch. Continue reading
Zacatecoluca sounds like “sacate la peluca” (remove the wig in Spanish) to us, but for the Salvadorans it is something simpler: Zacate= grass, and tecoluca= owl. We don’t know exactly why we entered the city of Zacatecoluca, but we clearly know why we stayed. The view of its imposing Cathedral with the corresponding park across the street all perfectly laid out –the opposite to what we had observed in the tight and messy markets of other parts of El Salvador– surprised us and captured our attention. Asking around, we reached Father Francis; a great motivating engine of social activities in the city, who rapidly added us to his hyperactive agenda introducing us to the referent volunteers of the projects that he manages in this community that is so beaten up and so sensitive to poverty, civil war and the current ‘maras’ or gangs. But, he doesn’t fight alone in this city, Guadalupe, from his desk (when she is found there) is another ‘altruistic’ –as she is called– which by the way reflects exactly what the Spanish Real Academy sustains in its definition ‘Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness’. Continue reading
How easy it is to ask for a coffee! In Buenos Aires we make the typical gesture of the index finger and the thumb together to the waiter, and according to how close or far away those two fingers are, the waiter would know if it is a small coffee or a large one. Here in “Smiles Coffee” –in Granada, Nicaragua– we can also ask for coffee like that, only if we wanted it with milk we would make the gesture of milking a cow, though. It would be fun to try that mimics in the coffee shop around the corner, right? In this oasis our words are not useful at all and we feel happily useless wishing a simple coffee with milk. Of course, we could simply point at the menu, but learning how to say it with signals is a whole new adventure in itself. Rodolfo, Irma and Douglas, the ones attending customers, have fun because they have already overcome the initial dread phase; now they understand us with just one look and wait patiently for us to finish clumsily the ‘Thank You’ sign that we repeat nonstop. Surely, we must look desperate not knowing how to communicate.
Anybody could say they can take on the world because nothing and no one could stop them in their mission to help out others. Not even slow them down. Death hit hard on Maritza and Franklin, suddenly taking away their 16 year old son in 1995 and 3 months later took away their 2 year old daughter after a devastating cancer. One could think that their life is over, that pain would overwhelm them; on the contrary it was all this that pushed them towards a new direction. Almost like obstacle running, dodging them while new ones appear, they firmly continue their path, after a temporary cancer and a macular degeneration on Franklin that made him loose his sight completely; they take things with humor and fight them with love. They enjoy the 3 children they still have; making most of the time they have together and dedicating themselves to help the sick people with low income in their community. Continue reading