Saturday, July 10, 2010

Back to basics

This week I took time to do things in Santa Rosa that I have been neglecting.

On Tuesday, as usual, I went to the Comedor de Niños, the lunch program started by the bishops which I have been with since it started. Zamira, the cook, is fantastic and when there are no volunteers she does everything – cook, serve, clean, and keep the kids in order. No mean task, but she is just such a loving person.

But this Tuesday the crowd of kids was overwhelming and so I was glad to be there, helping to serve the meal. It started slow at noon but they kept coming and at one point we had a hard time keeping up with all the kids arriving. My guess is that over 50 kids were served!

I am touched by the diversity of kids – a few rascals in the bunch, some mothers with their kids (including one little child that I am almost sure is severely malnourished), some really sharp kids who even try to use a few English words with me, and some who are really gracious.

The kids are getting used to me and my idiosyncrasies. “Lavense las manos – wash your hands,” I insist when they arrive. When they ask for seconds or water or something I ask them for “la palabra mágica – the magic word” – Thank you!

But then I run into them on the streets and they almost always greet me. What a blessing.

On Wednesday I went to the kindergarten in the Colonia Divina Providencia (Divine Providence neighborhood). They didn’t have class since they were giving out H1N1 vaccinations in the kinder. I played a little with the kids and talked with the teacher and the women doing the vaccinations.

I should try to get to the kindergarten more often.

But I am trying to get one thing fixed there. For at least two and a half years the swings don’t have decent seats. Now there’s just string for the kids to sit on. The teacher tells me that many people have promised to fix them – but nothing has happened. So about a month ago I asked a person I know who does a lot of different types of construction work to fix them, at my expense. He says he will get metal seats and install them. Hopefully soon, but I guess I just have to have patience.

Speaking of patience, yesterday our neighborhood base community went to visit a sick woman in our neighborhood who has been in a wheel chair for more than ten years. Now she is bedridden. Sor Inez, one of the Spanish Franciscan sisters down the street, regularly takes her Communion but five of us went this time to pray with her. It was moving and difficult. She is shriveled up, with twisted hands, in bed in a small room in her house. Family and friends care for her. But her mind is still very active. What I found amazing is her courage in the face of all the pain, able to endure it for so long – though she does complain a little. If I were in that condition I’d problem be a royal pain in the butt for people trying to help me. But she was gracious, even inviting us to sit down as we reflected together after the Gospel reading.

After that one of the other members of the base community and I went with another of the Franciscan sisters, María Jesús, to take some shelving to a school being built in the nearby town of San Juan de Opoa for children with special needs. There is basically nothing been done for these kids but there is a group here, aided by some Canadians as well as the sisters and their contacts, that has gotten together to begin this school It’s a small building with a classroom, a dining hall, and a room for physical therapy for the kids. Another small effort to help those at the margin of society.

This week I have also been doing a lot of looking over and revising my notes for a project of diocesan workshops on Catholic Social Thought which will begin this month. The dates have finally been set. What I hope we can do is design the workshops (which will be repeated in the deaneries) in a popular education style since many of the people, even the leaders, don't have a lot of formal education - though they are full of wisdom. I've also been thinking of how we can design a booklet on Catholic Social Thought for the base communities. These two interrelated projects have received grants from the US Catholic Bishops' Committee on Latin America and the German bishops' aid agency Adveniat.

This coming week I should be involved in a lot of planning for projects – meeting about a proposal for funding a project on mining, another with representatives of a British group that wants to talk with Caritas Santa Rosa on issues of the environment. I also hope that we can get a group together to plan for the diocesan Catholic Social Teaching workshops mentioned above. In the next two weeks I also plan to squeeze in a visit or two to the countryside with the health project workers and perhaps a trip to Santa Barbara to purchase – at last – a used pick up.

So it goes here in Santa Rosa – while the wider political and social issues continue unresolved. But small steps are what I need to take.

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