Monday, August 8, 2011

Blessed to Be a Witness

           This past week has been a whirlwind of ups and downs and I can’t help but be reminded of the Ben Harper song, “Blessed to be a Witness.” The things I have seen here have challenged me and broken my heart but they have also made me realize how blessed I truly am.
            A group from a large Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio came to spend the week here in order to get to know the community, the problems that exist in the area, and discern what they can do to help. They will be building a bilingual school in a neighboring community called Camasca. It was truly a joy for me to watch these people grow and change throughout the course of the week based on what they had witnessed. One day we went to Camasca (where the school will be built) and we were literally treated like royalty. There was a band that followed us around, the elementary and high school set up a performance for us where the students sang and danced, and they sat us up on the stage up front and center. It was quite the experience and yet another reminder of the hospitality of the people here. When we went to the high school, we walked through a tunnel of applause and they served us wine while we sat on stage. Again, I am constantly surprised and amused by the actions here and I hope these unexpected moments never cease during my time in this community.
The front of the clinic
            One of the hardest moments for me so far has been a home visit I went on with a few of the other members of the group this past week. This is a family that lives back in the middle of nowhere in a wood shack that is falling down. They are squatters and the owner of the house is trying to get them out but they have nowhere to go. The mom, Julia has three other kids and now is pregnant with triplets! One of her sons also passed away a few years ago from rheumatic fever (a heart disease that can come about from untreated strep throat) and her husband is blind. Julia is the only source of income for the family as she sells sand (about 2 bags a day) and this barely covers enough to supply food for the family. Since she is now pregnant, she is unable to sell the sand. Her daughter is eleven and has never been to school because it’s so far and she doesn’t want to walk by herself. It is one thing to hear about these situations, but sitting in the house in the midst of the poverty and the filth and seeing the people it affects broke my heart. I feel like everything that could possibly go wrong for this family has. Julia is a little woman, not more than ninety pounds, and despite her situation, her and her husband sat there and smiled and shared with us. I just can’t imagine how she will ever support three more little babies.

The students from the elementary school in their garb for a folkloric dance
     After the visit, I was very emotional and felt so hopeless as to what we could we do for this family. However, Doctor Ruben, a very dedicated doctor for Shoulder to Shoulder who works relentlessly for the people here, has arranged for Julia to go to Tegucigalpa (the capital city) for care. Shoulder to Shoulder will pay for her to go there once she is at 27 weeks (just 2 weeks away) and will cover the expenses while she is there. While this is huge help, I have no idea how she can continue on with her life after they are born. Thankfully, the group from Cincinnati is banding together to help with a house for this family. As I am confronted with the suffering apparent here, I can’t help but be thankful for my blessings and for the people in this world like Ruben who are so devoted to improving the lives of others. I recognize that while it never gets easier to be in the face of such agony, I have to have hope that things will get better and know that I am blessed to be a witness.

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