It is one thing to visit a touristic site and take pictures; it is a whole different thing to be invited by a local person to her home and into her life, and to have a chance to help women support their family.
Today I took two of my volunteers – a doctor and his 12-year-old son – for a closer look at how Global Volunteers works in Alto Progreso. When I called the community leader to arrange the visit, she got very excited and agreed to show us her community. We were first met by her mother, a woman in her 70s, who ran to hug and kiss us on our cheeks. “My family, my family!” she exclaimed, and added; “You are my family.” She continued; “My daughter told me today, “my brother will come visit me, mom.”” I was being called “brother” by the community leader; what a warm feeling.
Haydee, the community leader, showed off the community´s greatest pride, the soccer field they built into the hill with their own hands – a job that took them 14 years to finish. I offered to carry the heavy buckets a local woman was carrying on her way back from the market. She said “come, I will show you my pig farm.” As we were walking, she told us her story. “See, I am bringing food for my pigs. I raise pigs to support my family; that´s what people do here to support their family.
“I am a single mother. My husband was killed when I was pregnant. I have a daughter and a son. Now my son is in college studying to be an engineer. He will have a better future.”
She invited us in to see her pigs and told us we could take pictures. She said we should come on Sunday, as she would kill a pig and make a meal she could share with us. Because my volunteer team is leaving on Saturday, we declined. “You let me know when you come back then”; she replied. After a few minutes we had to leave, but as we were leaving she stopped us, went into the bag of food she had just bought in the market and started to look for some fruit to share with us. Seeing she had only 5 or 6 oranges, I politely decline. But she gave us three. While they were very ripe, the kindness with which she shared the oranges made them precious to us. Later I understood what I had once read in the Bible:
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
On our way home I could not stop thinking how I had been in much bigger, cleaner, richer, and nicer homes, with much more educated people, but never in my life I had enjoyed visiting a home like this one, nor felt the warmth I felt there. Thanks to the work Global Volunteers does in Alto Progreso (and it has only been six months since we sent teams there), the community already calls volunteers “their family, ” and they keep on confirming what we have always said: when you go to serve, you end up getting so much more in return.