Claire's Journey Parte Dos
Hola mis amigas y familia!
I hope you’re doing well and getting some summer sun wherever you are and that this email finds you well! It’s crazy to think that I have been living in Alausí for almost two weeks now- the time has really flown by!
Throughout this week, I have continued to enjoy the beautiful views, tasty food, and culture, but have also gotten the opportunity to complete some research projects for the Maria Lida Foundation! It has been incredible to learn about the huge expat populations across Ecuador, specifically in Cuenca, and brainstorm ways in which Alausí can be marketed to these demographics. Furthermore, I have also done some research on tourism of a nearby volcano, called the Chimborazo, which is a popular tourist destination country wide and a very sacred mountain for the locals.
I have also continued to experience and learn new things about living in Alausí every day. Previously, Jorge and I had walked by the hospital here in Alausí, which is very dilapidated and in need of assistance. To “fix” the hospital problem, we saw a couple semi-trucks with “hospital móvil” written on the side. These are the places that people form the community can now go for treatment: a steel box resting on a couple wheels with some beds and equipment scattered inside. Jorge also explained to me the struggles that the community faced when the landslide hit.
Despite this, there is also beauty that can be seen in the hardships. Jorge and I had the opportunity to visit one of the local shelters where five families, a total of eighteen people, are taking refuge after their homes have been destroyed and many of their loved ones passed away. We spoke with a lady who was living there to ask her what supplies were in the most urgent need and how the Maria Lida Foundation could be of assistance to those living in the shelter. The lady expressed the needs of hygiene products, diapers, and other personal articles the people living in the shelter would appreciate and also explained that there was a man who needed just $10 to buy beads to make bracelets which he sold. It was so crazy to me how far the smallest donations can go towards helping others. Ten dollars seems like nothing, that’s not even a meal in the United States, but here it could supply someone with a chance to make a living and give them hope!
The lady also explained the tragic story of how she had lost her sister, brother-in-law, and all her nieces and nephews in the slide. I couldn’t understand much in Spanish other than “hermana” which I know means sister, but the look on her face and Jorge’s face explained the rest. It was devastating to hear, yet the lady explained how she had so much love in her heart. She said that her sister was very spiritual and had been found in the landslide not long ago, but her body had not begun to show many signs of decomposition. At first I thought this was awful, as I feared her sister may have been fighting for her life even after the landslide, but the lady explained that she felt in her soul that God had preserved her sister’s body and given her peace. She said that she knew that because she had God in her heart, it would be okay. I thought this amount of strength and love and trust in God despite this tragedy was incredible and something I could never imagine. She was truly inspiring. I hope she knows she is in God’s heart too!
This week, I also experienced a funeral procession occurring outside the local Catholic church, right next door to the Maria Lida Foundation office. I was working on some writing in the office when I heard the music and stepped outside to watch a congregation of people filing outside the church dressed in all black. Many of the women were carrying these large bouquets of beautiful flowers. There was a car in front with a speaker playing the music. Then, I saw six men (three on each side) descend the steps out of the church carrying the casket on their shoulders. They stood behind the car, with the ladies with the flowers around them, and many of the attendees behind them. They began to walk down the “calle llargo” which means long road. This is the road where they would walk from the church to the cemetery as a way to respect and memorialize the person who had passed. It was beautiful to watch.
I also attended a church service there on Sunday. While it was all in Spanish and I did not understand much, it was beautiful to see so many people in Alausí gathered to find hope and look to God. I had also never attended a Catholic church before so that was a very interesting experience as that is the main religion here in Alausí.
I am continuing to learn so many things about the culture and way of life here in Alausí, but one theme seems present no matter what: community. The people here know that with each other, they are stronger and with the support they can all give, hard times are made easier. I believe many of them also know and value the love of God and use that as a constant reminder to love one another. It’s beautiful!
This week, I am looking forward to hopefully hosting a mixer event on Friday where many of the students from past cohorts can come and practice English together and catch up. It is a great way for them to stay in contact with each other, stay involved with MLF, and not forget the English they have learned. I am also really looking forward to the Graduation of Cohort 5 that will be happening this Sunday! I am nervous as I am to perform a speech in Spanish, but very excited to meet many of the students and get to be involved in celebrating them. Learning a language is not easy, that’s for sure!
To stay involved and connected, you can follow MLF on Instagram @marialidafoundation or Facebook! I also continue to thank you for your prayers and support throughout my internship experience!
At this time, my top prayer request is for the community of Alausí to remain united and use the upcoming holidays (Day of San Pedro on Thursday) to remind each other of their support and love for each other. I also pray for my Spanish skills and more so that my confidence to speak would greatly improve and that my speech at the graduation ceremony will be understood by the graduates!
As always, I am still continuing to fundraise to support the community of Alausí during my internship. Donations can be made at the following link: https://www.marialidafoundation.org/collections/contribute! Your generosity is greatly appreciated!