This afternoon, we got back from our much anticipated trip to Misque, to visit the communities of Patawasi and Mina Asientos for our annual ‘One Child at a Time’ Christmas giving. Tyson wrote about our first trip back in October, when we first got to know these two communities and began planning for this event.
We left early Friday morning and what was only a 3 day trip felt much longer. It was very full, and very overhwhelming. I had a lot of fun, there were some hilarious moments and also some challenging moments. Now, back in Cochabamba, I feel tired, grateful, inspired, saddened, confused… I am left with a lot of memories and also a lot of questions.
Hopefully you’ll hear various reflections from other volunteers who went on this trip. One thing I really want to share is how proud I am of our girls, seeing them in a new place out of their comfort zone, totally giving of themselves with joy, totally in their element. 10 of our oldest girls from CDP came along and really were the core of our operation when we visited the communities. Organizing the food baskets, handing out gifts to the kids, playing with the kids, staying outside on the back of a truck on a cold morning to give out gifts along the road to those who couldn’t make it to the big gatherings. They worked hard, they saw a lot of new things, got a lot of sun and not enough sleep, and really showed their capabilities. I know how much they can give, but I don’t think they get this opportunity often enough. People who don’t know them see them as poor girls without a family. The truth is, they are a family. Creating a perfect family is impossible – but they have each other and an amazing group of tias and volunteers who love them to bits. And this weekend they were able to share much of the care they receive daily.
This weekend meant a lot more than giving toys and food to a bunch of poor families. Those kids, too, have a lot to offer and so do those communities. Yes, they have needs but they also have a lot of strengths that deserve to be recognized. Being such an isolated community as Patawasi, farming at a high altitude and surviving over generations, is pretty incredible. On the bus ride back to Misque, I kept thinking about how their lives make many material-oriented, individualistic, technology-dependent lives in North America seem pathetic. The community members of Mina Asientos, which is bigger and has a much different feel to it than Patawasi, are very proud of their mine and with reason. It’s tough, because we visit these two places, we can see their poverty and struggles within families and within the broader community, but are we valuing their strengths and thanking them for welcoming us, strangers, to their home place?
The kids in both communities look out for each other and are amazing soccer players! We played ‘futbol’ with the kids at both places and I think that was the best part, beyond the food and toys. Laughing and spending time with them while they are doing something they love, with our girls joining in. We also brought out our parachute and played some incredible parachute games which totally lit up the faces of everyone. We laughed and pumped the parachute to exhaustion.
I think I was also served more food in 3 days then ever in my life, delicious, traditional food prepared with care. As full as I was, I was also amazed at the hospitality everywhere we visited.
I go to bed tonight with beautiful images in my mind, also swamped with questions to which I don’t know the answer. I do hope these visits are only the starting point, and that further relationships with these communities can be built with care, where each party gives and receives and learns from the other.
The girls in Mina Asientos following Kelley to the face paints, through the GIANT soccer field.
Mothers and their kids enjoying breakfast in Mina Asientos.
This boy from Patawasi has such a great smile – showing off his gift.
The wonder of the parachute – all the kids and our girls together in Patawasi.
These three boys had a lot of fun ringing the bell before breakfast.
Not quite sure what to make of the camera, but willing to be in a photo nonetheless.
Have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas.
Paz y amor,