One of the people we met in Lomas de San Isidro was a woman named Elena. Through a translator, she explained to us that during the spring swine flu outbreak, she and a group of women hand-sewed 5000 face masks in the space of a few days. Then they went door to door through the community handing them out, and providing information about the flu and how to prevent it. Collectively, it required hundreds of hours of work for which she and the other women received no pay. But in Lomas, no one got sick with the flu.
When asked why she did it, Elena said she wanted to help her neighbors. And she understood that success takes teamwork, and she wanted to be a model of how to do that. She wanted to encourage others to work for the community, too. She said the women’s strategy is to work together, even though it is not always easy, and some have to be convinced that it’s worth their time. But Elena believes that, together, they can improve life for everyone.
We visited Lomas because it is a community supported by Amextra, one of ELCA World Hunger’s long-standing partner organizations. It was ELCA World Hunger funds that provided the materials for the masks that Elena and her neighbors sewed, and that support the Amextra-sponsored community center where classes on health and disease prevention are taught. It was gratifying to see a first-hand example of the impact my donations are having, the good ways the money is being used, and to recognize my part in that greater whole.
But for me, far more profound was the example being set by Elena and the others we met. Relative to those living in Lomas, I am rich beyond imagination. I have lots of comforts and plenty to eat. But unlike Elena, I can’t tell you the names of the people who live three houses away from me. I’d like to say I’d stay up all night to make them face masks, but if the flu hits my neighborhood, I’m not so sure I’ll see those nameless, unknown people as my priority. Elena and the residents of Lomas de San Isidro have very little money, but they have a wealth of human connection and support that many of us Americans, for all our money, can’t buy and desperately want. In the community that the residents of Lomas de San Isidro have created, I saw God. And I felt hope.
There are lots of places in the world like Lomas de San Isidro (including here in the U.S.!), where people struggle daily to eat. To acquire needed healthcare services. To obtain information. To offer their children a hopeful future. And there are lots of places where people accomplish amazing things in the face of adversity every day. Our trip to Mexico gave a small group of us a renewed sense of hope and urgency in the fight to end hunger. May we find ways to sustain that sense of urgency and pass it on to others!