Madre. In Spanish it means mother.
When I am in public people usually approach me, partially because I stick out like a sore thumb, but also because they assume that I am either a Nun or a Doctor.
Although I prefer the sound of “Doctora”, I have come to accept either greeting.
The Peruvians call the Sisters, Madre, and so they also call me Madre.
I have assumed the mother role in a variety of ways during my first two weeks in Chimbote. After a brief conversation with my parents the other evening I was told that it isn’t acceptable for a nineteen year old to adopt a child (preferably a little girl named, Sandra) but, nonetheless, the Peruvians still call me Madre, Momma, or Mommy (and refer to Sandra as my daughter).
Each day I spend an hour with Peter (Pedrito) the now 17 day old baby boy in our Neonatal unit. There are three other babies on the unit and their mothers are constantly visiting, and I felt it only right that Pedrito had someone who visited him as frequently. Many of the staff members flock to the window around 3 PM to see Pedrito and his “Mommy” (and they do call me Mommy) sitting in the rocking chair.
After my time with my little one, I head over to spend the remainder of the afternoon with the rest of my “children” at the orphanage.
Meet Sarita, Jesus (who was ADOPTED on Wednesday!), Kenji, Luciana, Graciela, Sandra, Hector, Maria Guadalupe, Mary Teresa, Patrick, Angelita, Julio, James, Diego, Maria Laura and Santiago.
They are some of the most precious children you will ever meet, and as you can see from the above pictures have the most infectious smiles.
On Wednesday I went on my second round of home visits. We traveled by car about 45 minutes to a town called Nuevo Chimbote. The area that we visited recently caught fire and we were able to bring clothing and mattresses (and a stroller for the little cutie pictured above) to those who lost their possessions in the fire.
We went to one house and the man assumed that I was a “Madre” and absolutely insisted that I took a tour of his “house” which was all but a two room shack with walls made of cardboard. He was so incredibly proud to introduce me to his family and have me meet his little daughter. He is able to support his family by selling bags of fried bananas. His wife slaves over the stove frying these bananas and was so delighted to send me and the nurses on our way with about 5 bags worth of these things, which I have to admit were TO DIE FOR.
Each person that we met was so extremely grateful for what we were able to give them. It was such an amazing experience for me to witness, and it really made me reexamine many of the things that I previously held as highly important in my life.
Through the people of Peru I have learned that material things are not as important as we often make them out to be and that the most important thing is family.
On Friday I returned to visit my “friend” with schizophrenia. We were able to lift her out of bed, due to her illness she often refuses to leave her bed and is now completely unable to use her legs. She was so excited to see me and immediately yelled “Hola Catalina (what most people call me here in Peru).” She was particularly interested in my family and I was able to tell her about my own family and even show her pictures of my mom and dad.
The next house we visited was a man who was recently widowed back in April and now is in charge of taking care of their six children. As if the burden of loosing your wife and providing for your children (one of which is severely physically disabled) isn’t enough the man is going blind. Despite all of his set backs, he is a wonderful father and is extremely dedicated to his family.
Each story touches my heart in a different way, and each person I meet takes a part of my heart with them. There are no words to describe all that I have seen in the past two weeks, but despite the pain and sorrow that I feel for these people I have been inspired by their hope and love. It is my sincere hope that you might take some love from their stories and remember them throughout your day today. Be thankful for all that you have, especially your family.
Until next time,