Monday, June 28, 2010

Should I have asked the question?

Today I spent about 45 minutes with the staff of a Caritas program on infant and maternal health in the department of Copán.

The program is financed by the World Bank and Catholic Relief Services is the intermediary with Caritas Santa Rosa and does provide monitoring, training, and some extra funding. It's purpose is to reduce infant mortality. The program works with the government’s Ministry of Health and, luckily, works very well with that government agency in Copán. The program has its limitation since it’s mostly concerned with training volunteers in poor villages to monitor the weight, height, and general health of pregnant women and infants under two.

There are two coordinators who work in the field with 14 promoters who work with the monitors and so are potentially serving hundreds of children.

I wanted to talk with them briefly, reminding them how important their work is and recognizing the difficulties they face working in remote villages.

To help them reflect on their work, I asked them, “Can you tell me a person or an event that has touched you deeply?”

As I listened I wondered whether I should have asked the question.

One young man told me how he walks four hours to get to one of the villages he serves, walking through rivers. He then has to return back the same day! He invited me to join him the next time he goes.

Another young man told me about an infant in one village who was vomiting and had diarrhea. He had referred the mother to the local health clinic but she didn’t have the money to pay for transportation. People put together their funds and managed to collect enough so she could go to the clinic.

In one village one of the volunteer monitors has two children who are underweight. She has no food to give them.

Another monitor told the Caritas worker that a small stipend given him had been enough to him to buy a fifty pound bag of beans for his family.

The workers would have gone on but I had to go to another meeting. I ended by reminding them that when they weigh an infant they should recall that in some real way they are weighing Christ.

I’m not sure I could have handled many more of these stories. I am near tears as I write this. But as I recounted some of these stories to Padre Efraín, the director of Caritas, we recalled that we are trying to get support for programs of food security for these communities, but he reminded me this is, above all, a structural problem.

The economic, social, and political structure here in Honduras keeps these people in poverty. That’s why some people I know support the Resistance. They see the need for a real change in their country that will address these needs.

This afternoon I asked one question which affected me deeply.

But there is another question, which all of us who are privileged as I am, need to ask and respond to with critical decisions, "Why does this continue? Why don't these people have the land, the food, the houses, the work they need and deserve to live a decent life?"

When these people suffer, Christ suffers.

As the martyred Jesuit Padre Ignacio Ellacuría asked, "What am I doing for the crucified peoples of this world, taking them down from their crosses?"

And when will we work to change this system that crucifies so many innocents?


Anonymous said...

Brother John asks, "Why does this continue? Why don't these people have the land, the food, the houses, the work they need and deserve to live a decent life?"

Because people think that "the body of Christ" is a metaphor, rather than a living reality.

In a nutshell, that is the answer. If your foot is in pain, your hand does not ask, "Can I afford to help it?" or "Is it deserving?" But making this a living reality in our own lives is not as simple as wishing it into existence. We have to feel it.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

I forgot to mention in the blog entry that I told the Caritas promoters that I would try to accompany some of them to their sites sometime in July.

The young man who walks four hours each day invited me to come with him. I don't know if I am up to that - maybe if I were 20 years younger.

But I do want to get to the countryside to see their work.