I thought I understood what it meant to live a life of service to others, but every new day shows me the opposite. I believe that each profession has its own value, and one can help the others from where one is, but there is no doubt that some jobs are almost exclusively meant to be of service to others, for Love, those that no salary can afford. I knew just a few people close to me like my soul friend Carola, a kindergarten teacher who is for me an example of real vocation: she never gets tired of changing diapers of kids who are not hers nor her nephews, with a smile every time, trying to get the best out of these little earthquakes, forgetting completely about herself and helping them to develop happy and unique. She leaves behind her worries, tiredness or impatience to be their guiding light. ‘Fortunately’ the path of my life kept me away of the world of nursing, with just a few own experiences, until my cousin Agustina became a nurse; slowly I was being convinced that her service y and concern for the person next to her had long ago overpassed the limit of the family; she wanted to help everyone, especially the weakest. Continue reading
This time it was Gardenia who complained, and making a weird noise combined with a smell of a burning wire, forced us to stop in “that” exact place, on Holy Wednesday. It was in front of a charming inn at Mindo, Ecuador; an oasis of the subtropical forest in the middle of hills and clouds. At the door we mt and talked to the owners: Luis, Ecuadorian, married to Susan, from the United States, who were intrigued by our trip. The following morning we were invited to the best coffee we had had in the last 6 months, and then we “self-invited” to see their organic coffee plantation, confirming our first impression: we were facing a very special couple. Susan told us about many supportive projects at Mindo, we shared our joy and liking for the choice of an Argentinean Pope and also disciple of Saint Francis of Assisi, their favorite saint (and also ours!). They suggested that we talked to Father Ubaldo, who could guide us in our search: Someone who is changing the world through the service to others. Continue reading
Lupita never imagined 17 years ago, that her candid offer to help giving art classes at the Parish Our Lady of the Clouds would be so successful. When she heard the request for help from the parish priest who didn’t know how to entertain the kids during the afternoons of vacation time, it occurred to this art teacher newly arrived to Ballenita to present herself at the parish and dedicate some afternoons to this new activity. The surprise came when 200 students signed up for the workshops. They had to create different classes, with only a big room, plastic benches and paint received through donations to finally let imagination fly in their drawings. Continue reading
Salta, Argentina overwhelms with its extended areas, we traveled kilometers and kilometers without leaving the capital city, and the coincidences of life made us camp right next to one of our silent heroes. In spite of the signals received we were asleep or distracted. We were waked up by the music of the guitars and the voices singing “…take me to where the people need your Word…”, but we didn’t take the hint. Talking to the owner of the camping site and telling her what we were doing, without hesitation she introduced us to Alba, a biology professor who was with the kids who were singing earlier that day.
On the other hand, we were invited to meet Father Alessandro, a charming Italian from Rome who invited us to stay the night over the phone. The more we were getting closer to his parish and away from the colonial Salta with the park ‘9 of July’ and impressive houses, the more we were being immersed in a harsh reality with the most humble settlements of the city. Continue reading
In the extreme hot weather of the city ofSantiago del Estero, Argentina, we keep on being surprised by so much solidarity. This time Father Hernán introduced us to Gachy and César, a married couple who are very special teachers. They are young, 46 and 43 years old and 40 kids had already came to their house needing someone who would trust in them and give them a chance to study.
Gachy tells us, with a nice accent from Santiago del Estero, that she was a snob at 18 years of age, but when she faced such a crude reality while being a missionary she started to feel ashamed and wonder “why there is so much difference?, why we can study and they can’t?”. Since then, they continued to be missionaries in that province and every time they would get closer to that tough situation by assuming people needs as their own and trying to promote them as a dignified person. Continue reading
There are many foreign volunteers from different countries: Vicentin Sister Rosita (Paraguay), “Anunciata” Dominican Sister Ma. Teresa (Spain), Sister Marisol (Chile), and other Spanish jewels, like Crescencia, Inmaculada and Pilar.
The Sisters are both a silent and a driving engine in the Community. The only 2 Vicentin Sisters left coordinate the Nursing Home, the Girls Home “Medalla Milagrosa” (Miracle Medal) and the Special Needs School “Santa Margarita” (Sainte Margaret). They are only 2, one almost 90 years old and the other Sister Rosita is like an endless wheel who doesn’t take a break among some many activities. The motto of the Congregation is to be “modest, humble and charitable” and she follows it to perfection, and this is just the beginning. For her is the most natural thing in the world to be at the service of others, when she was 9 years old, she used to play with her brother pretending to be a priest and a nun. She was so humble that it was hard to make her talk about herself, but she would tell many things about the girls, with whom she prays a daily Rosary and lives at the Girls Home. Continue reading
Almost like a mirror in Spanish “AÑ-ATUYA / AYUDA (=HELPS)”: Nice coincidence… How difficult to summarize Añatuya (city in the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina), if we are still processing it! It is incredible what happens there, in that dusty and extremely warm place for the visitors. And it is not a mystery, is plain courage, will and lot of help from the Above what moves this army of anonymous heroes. They really do what Mother Teresa used to say “To love until it hurts”. Because it really hurts, there are realities that hurt, and they leave their own reality to plunge into someone else’s reality and try to make it better.
We reached Father Cristian in Añatuya thinking he may contact us with one person who helps others and in one sigh we had 9 (Nine!) people to meet, a total record for us, we skeptically thought: “it can’t be possible that all these people work for Love, very likely we will discover after meeting them that they work for a salary and a fixed schedule”. One by one they not only probed the contrary but also showed us Love in action. It seems it is still hard for us to change the way we see things. Continue reading
In the outskirts of Chilecito, in the town-neighbourhood of San Miguel with 1,100 inhabitants, everybody knows “Reina” (Queen) because she is like a mother to the community. She knows and takes care of everyone, and like an ant’s work she gets everything she sets her mind to. Since she has memory, she has always been doing this and will keep on doing it; with over 70 years old she is like a train engine at the service of others. She knows everyone and to everyone she asks for help, thanks to that and with a lot of effort, she managed to make a reality the Dining Room, the cemetery, the Chapel of San Miguel, the Library and so many other things. Continue reading
The temperature rises pretty fast here in San Juan, Argentina. Unfortunately, also does the hunger and the malnutrition. In Angaco, 30 kms from the city of San Juan, we met the Dining room named “Niño Jesús” (Jesus Child), coordinated by Don Augusto Olmos, his wife Cristina, and Mariela. Its beginning goes back to 11 years ago, when they went out as missionaries with a group from the Parrish and were faced with this 2,500 inhabitants town’s tough reality. There were many undernourished kids, and they wanted to do “something”. Talking with the Parrish priest they wondered: “How can we give them something to eat?”, and the priest simply answered: “Easy as that, giving them something to eat!” In brief, they transformed that “something” into tangible action. They started in a corner under the shade of a willow, preparing a fire and cooking the food in big pans. Whether it was under a strong sun, rain, zonda wind or a freezing cold temperature, they would manage to provide food to a growing group of kids, with a record of 320 kids! Continue reading