Alice in Wonderland Soup Kitchen

Ready to pray

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

Dreaming big with your feet on the ground (part II)

with Patricia

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

Limitless Altruists

with Guadalupe, Lillia, Marcelino at Cosme Espesote

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

Swinging smiles

Uncle Antonio and his crew

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.

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Dodging obstacles

with Maritza & Franklin

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

Sowing footprints

Sister Mariela and the group of Footprints of Charity

To know how Sister Mariela is, we just need to ask her 17 or 18-year-old students who share with her diverse activities in the group “Footprints of Charity” to instantly get in response many phrases in unison: “She leaves a footprint”, “She is extremely simple, humble, easygoing; helps others and dedicates herself fully”, “She demands from us that we give the 101%”, “even if she has nothing, she makes the impossible, she has a clear need to serve the other”, “She is: Love your Neighbour”. In a few words they said the first thing that crossed their minds, with a cheerful and fresh spontaneity. It’s just that with her, these teenagers have been living and discovering since grade 7 the satisfaction of serving others, taking care of the ones with the utmost need as well as working for their community, caring, cleaning and rescuing parks and common spaces.  Continue reading

Hands Wide Open

Our heroine has no costume or cape, but the one thing she cannot do is: fly. It is almost impossible to get her to pose for a picture; she is thin and small and despite her aerodynamic clothes could make her fly in a storm, she prefers to stay down here, close to the mud and those who suffer the most. Marlen may look tiny to our eyes, but she is just disguising an engine filled with a throng of power horses, courage and humbleness who dedicates every minute of her life to care for the abandoned disabled: the poorest of the poor, those who cannot even ask for help.   Continue reading