When there’s a will there’s a way

I’d like to rephrase the title of this blog to: When there’s a Williams, there’s a way.

A year ago I was packing my bags ready to depart from my Father Smith Fellowship in Chimbote, Peru with a heart that was broken and mended from the lives and the stories of all whom I encountered during my stay. I said my final farewells to those who I had come to know, cherish, and love, and left Sister Margaret Mary at the bus terminal as she said “this is not goodbye, but rather see you soon because I know you will be back.”  I hugged her close and laughed thinking that it would be a long time before I would return to Chimbote.

There was not a day that went by where I did not think of or pray for mis amigos in Chimbote. In my daily intentions I would pray for the wellbeing of the community, for the growth of the clinic, and for homes for the orphaned children who caputured my heart. I also (somewhat selifshly) prayed that it would be God’s will that I would one day return to serve at the clinc.

My determination unceasing, I applied for and was granted a Santander Global Service Learning Grant which afforded me the opportunity to venture back to Chimbote. There were no words to contain the joy in my heart nor the excitement I had to be making this journey for a second time in under two years.

Processed with VSCO with tk preset

Flash-forward to the well anticipated DEPARTURE DAY. Two bags and a carry on stuffed to the brim with donations from generous family and friends in hand I headed to the airport to embark on my adventure. Little did I know that my adventure would be had in my attempt to get myself and my bags to Peru! Long story short, my intitial flight from Boston was delayed which would cause me to miss my connecting flight to Peru. I was placed on an earlier flight, but learned, after landing, that my bags were not on the flight (cue huge panic and frantic call to Mom and Dad). I decided to continue on my way without my bags hoping they would find their way to Lima the following day only to learn at the last second prior to boarding that my flight had been canceled because they had no pilot to fly the plane. However, things have a funny way of working out and I willed myself to not let this setback dampen my spirits. Nothing, not even missing baggage and a flight with no one to fly it would stop me from going to Chimbote. Like I said, when there’s a Williams there’s a way! After much re-arranging I found myself lucky to be hosted by a close college friend and her family who lives in Dallas for a few days and a ticket on the Monday night flight to Lima.

After even more anticipation for my arrival, I (at last) made it to Chimbote late Tuesday afternoon. In the days preceding my trip I began to wonder if things would be the same upon my return. Would I be as excited to brave the barrios on home visits each day as I was when I first received my red lunch box turned medical bag? Would my Spanish come back easily after not speaking the language in almost a year? Would the children remember me? All of my questions were answered as soon as the bus pulled into the station in Chimbote. Things had not changed, and it was as though I had never left.

I arrived to the Maternidad in the late afternoon to be greeted by numerous staff welcoming me back, but the happiest welcoming came from the children. I wished that I was able to capture the moment on video, but I know that it will forever be engrained in my heart. I entered the playroom to a chorus of children gleefully saying HOLA! From the corner of the room I noticed my little Sandra, she looked at me closely then smiled and came running into my arms laughing and smiling from ear to ear *cue huge waterworks from me.* The connection we had was still there, despite her being several inches taller, developing a very fierce personality as she settles into her “terrible twos” phase, and a new found love for the word “no”.

IMG_7978

I hopped right back into the rotation at the clinic the following morning accompanying on home visits. The poverty that exists in the country is still a shock to me, and I so very much take for granted all that I have back home. Today on home visits we encountered a 25 year old patient with an unexplainable paralysis of his legs and hands. He had never seen a doctor. I was perplexed at not only his condition, but also why he had never sought treatment or a diagnosis. The answer was simple, he had no money. The mission of the Maternidad is to provide adequate healthcare to all regardless of economic status, so tomorrow the young man will be coming to see a doctor and receive therapy to hopefully assist with allowing him the chance to walk and use his hands.

IMG_7986

When I am not out on home visits or in the clinic I can be found with the babies. I am so impressed with how much they have all grown and stand in awe as I watch my babies who are now toddlers roam around each with a very distinctive personality. Although I haven’t taken many photos yet, I couldn’t resist including two then-and-now pics! Above is a picture of Pedrito last year on the day he entered the Maternidad, found in a public restroom with his umbilical cord still attached and born several weeks premature, as well as a picture of the handsome one year old today! Below is a picture of Kenlly and I as I carried him on my shoulders around the yard. The last time I saw him he was recovering from surgery for his cleft lip and palate, and now he is a boy full of personality with the most infectious smile!!

Image.jpg

There was a lot of will in this Williams gal, and I finally made my way to the place and the people who hold such a large portion of my heart.  I am so very blessed to be back serving the people that I love, but for also having the opportunity to share their stories with all back home. Although my trip to Peru was a long one my journey has only just begun!

With love from Peru,

Kate 

Advertisements

Finding the GOOD in Goodbye

Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.

IMG_3690 IMG_3693

Is it acceptable to both smile and cry? Forty-four days ago I departed to my destination 4,042 miles away from everything that was familiar to me. At that time I said goodbye to my family and friends and looked with optimism towards all that awaited me on the other side of the equator. As I say my final goodbyes to the strangers that have become my family and to the country that now holds such a special place in my heart I find it hard to control my feelings. I am excited to return home to see my parents, to pack my bags and head back to PC for my junior year, and to (finally) enjoy a cup of Starbucks coffee. I am happy to have seen and experienced all that the Centro de Obras Sociales Maternidad de Maria has to offer, to have fallen so deeply for the sixteen children who I so wish were coming back to America with me, and to have had such a positive experience over the past two months. But with this excitement comes sadness and guilt, sadness to leave all that I have come to love behind and guilt to know how vastly different the world I will return to will be. Amongst the roller coaster of feelings that I have been experiencing, I was also able to have an amazing last week in Chimbote.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Friday began the first of my “lasts” here in Chimbote as I departed on my last home visit. I remember how excited I was the first day I received my little medical bag, and how I couldn’t wait to share my experiences on the blog. I was so very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people on home visits. Each day and each story was so vastly different, but the one common element that each person had was gratitude.On my last day I brought a PC friars shirt with me. I had no set destination for this shirt, but wanted to give it to someone so that a piece of Providence would always remain in Peru. We visited a woman who has thyroid cancer. Her cancer, which is untreatable, is completely consuming her. She no longer has feeling in the right side of her body, her arm has gone limp, and the tumor that she has now has engulfed her throat making it hard for her to talk. Her mother has also recently been diagnosed with cancer. As we talked to this woman, I decided that my shirt should go to her. I explained that I had received this shirt from my school and that I wished for her to keep it. She was so excited and grateful to receive the shirt and even attempted to say GO FRIARS (which was written on the back of the shirt).

IMG_3876 IMG_3814 

Sandra, my favorite little girl celebrates her first birthday on August 18th. Because I will be traveling home and no longer in Chimbote I decided to celebrate her birthday before I left. First birthdays are a very big deal here in Chimbote since for so many years many children did not live to see their first year due to poor prenatal care and horrible postnatal care in the home. Every person in the maternity knew that Saturday afternoon was going to be a special one and a huge celebration for “Kate’s princesa” would be held around three o’clock, I say “around” because nothing is ever right on time here in Peru. This celebration was complete with chocolate cake, candies, popcorn, music, dancing and of course, a lot of laughter and love. I am so glad that I was able to share in this special day with my sweet girl.

IMG_3810

IMG_3928

On Monday I was able to visit Kenji in Lima, who had recently undergone surgery to repair his cleft palate and cleft lip. Kenji was found malnourished on a home visit and was taken into the care of the Maternidad right before I came to Peru. Donations to the center we are able to provide this little boy with a new chance on life and a new smile. I met Kenji in Lima before I headed to the airport and before he boarded the bus back to Chimbote. He had been agitated and hadn’t been able to sleep much since his surgery, but after a few minutes in my arms he decided it was time to rest and fell fast asleep on the floor (the only place he wanted to be) holding my hand.

IMG_3680  IMG_3913

Before and after! Doesn’t he look handsome?

IMG_3014

Each day after morning prayers Sister Margaret Mary would remind us to keep the values of  Faith, Service and Love in our hearts and minds through out the day. As I look back on my journey these three values were vital in all that I experienced and did. Before I left for my trip I remarked on how my faith would guide me through this journey. My faith was an important component of my trip and was deeply strengthened during my time in Chimbote. I was inspired by the faith of the Peruvian people both in their devotion at Mass and in the way that they carried out their lives. God was and is present in each of these people and it was clear to me in all that I did; in my commute to work where I would see taxi drivers gathered for miles waiting for hours to receive gas  for their cars (there is currently a shortage in Peru), in the procedure room as I held the hands of patients having their wounds cleaned, in the faces of the newborn babies and the joy of their mothers when they first saw their child, and in each home that I visited in the barrios. Through these people I saw God and I found an even greater meaning and appreciation for my faith.

The goal of my trip was to serve.  In my initial email to Sr. Lillian I wrote that I hoped “the clinic was in need of a college girl with a servant’s heart who wanted more than anything to have the opportunity to work with them in Chimbote.”  I tried each and every day to embrace every moment and to live the message of the Gospel in all that I set out to do. The mission statement of the center encourages all to “servir con amor cristiano“, to serve with Christian love, and I did my best to serve and to bring joy to the patients and families of the center both within their gates and in community.

IMG_3736

On Sunday morning I left Chimbote for Lima. I tried my best to remind myself that I should be happy and that I should be smiling. I said my goodbyes to everyone at La Casa and headed to spend my remaining time with the babies. I held Pedrito for the last time, fed Diego a cookie and danced in the kitchen with Angelita. It was in these simple moments that I was reminded of how truly blessed I was to have had these children and the people of Chimbote in my life. I was able to experience things at nineteen years old that some don’t get to experience in their lifetime. I was able to love. I felt love from these children as I kissed each one good night and as I walked in to the kitchen each morning to a choir of children gleefully yelling “hola Kate.” If I am sure of anything on my journey it is that I loved with my whole heart, and that I will continue to love these children and the people of Chimbote long after I return to Providence.

The goodbyes were bittersweet for me, but I knew in my heart that it was time for me to go home. I am so incredibly grateful for this experience and know that it would not have been possible if not for the Father Smith Fellowship Program at Providence College, the extreme hospitality of Sister Lillian and Sister Margaret Mary and the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids Michigan, and the constant support and love of everyone back home. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for following me along on this incredible journey. May the love, faith, and strength of the people of Chimbote expressed through my stories remain in your heart for ever, because they will always remain in mine.

Gracias por todo, Chimbote.

Love always,

Kate

 

Love and Light

IMG_3217” Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Over the past week I have found myself turning to a song that I used to sing in high school for inspiration. The song, entitled Go Light Your World, reminds us that we all possess a light and that this light can be used to bring others out of the darkness.  We are called to be a beacon for others, and as much as I find myself being that light for the people of Peru, I also find them being a source of light for me.

IMG_3162

Over the course of the past week I have found myself in some dark situations, and I have tried (to the best of my ability) to be a beacon of light in these situations.

I learned on Wednesday of the passing of my “first patient” Señor Nicholas. Señor was the first person that I visited in Chimbote. Although he was very ill and confined to his bed, he and his family were a source of light for me Their dedication to caring without avail for Nicholas was inspiring and I watched in awe as they cradled him while we tended to his wounds and tried their best to keep the flies (and there were many) away from him as we worked. I pray that his family maybe able to overcome the darkness that surrounds his death by remembering him with fondness and knowing that they did everything for him to keep him content while he was still with them.

Although I am trying my best, there is still a language barrier between myself and the people of Peru. Each day I show improvement, but my greatest struggle thus far has been feeling as though I cannot connect to the patients that I work with.

IMG_3157

One day we visited the house of a 31 year old man named Michael. Michael is a schizophrenic who is also suffering from other medical issues. He refuses to take his medications and to leave his bed. Our objective of our trip to his home was to prepare him to take an ambulance to the local hospital where he could receive treatment for his ailments (we unfortunately  do not have the capacity to care for him at our clinic). We spent HOURS in the darkness of Michael’s room trying to coax him out of his bed with no avail. After much time had passed several police officers came to assist. They suggested that I go over and try to comfort him. We told him that “Doctora Catalina” was here and that it was imperative for him to get out of bed. I tried my best, I grabbed his hand and I told him he could do it and that I would be there with him every step of the way. Sadly, we were unable to get him out of his bed and after endlessly trying we had to move on to visit other patients. I do hope, however, to return to his home this week and to check on his condition.

Later that day I visited the home of two young boys ages four and two. I was absolutely shocked to find that they were home alone and that there was no one to care for them. They were so young, so helpless and explained to me that their mother worked each day and only came home later in the evening. This also meant that the boys only ate when their mother was home, and they were “mucho hambre”- very hungry. This was very disturbing for me, but is so very common here. So many of our children in the orphanage faced similar situations and so many people do not have the means to provide food for their children. I found myself questioning “how can I bring light to this situation?” The only solution I had was to provide them with comfort, attention, love, and of course some stickers.

My heart was broken after seeing those boys. Walking back to the Maternidad from their house we spotted the cutest boy sitting outside of a house in his red stroller. The boy, who I fell in love with, has several disabilities and was basically confined to his stroller. He had the most infectious smile and loved holding my hand. I asked his mom if he was getting any therapy to improve his muscle strength. She told me that he wasn’t. I then proceeded to inform her about the services we have for the children at the Maternidad; Monday through Friday we offer therapy for children in the afternoon and offer speech therapy on Saturday mornings. This afternoon when I went to work I spotted a red stroller sitting outside of the therapy unit, they had taken my advice and come! I was greeted with a warm smile from my little guy and a hug from his mother. Their love and gratitude for suggesting the clinic for them brought so much warmth into my day.

Sometimes all you need is to be yourself to bring joy into the hearts of others. A simple smile, the touch of a hand, and some concern can bring light into a situation. As I reflect on this week, I am determined to carry my candle and share my light with others and hope that in turn they take that light and pass it on.

So, “Carry your candle, and run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
And hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

Love from Peru,

Kate

Time is “knot” important


The Peruvian people have absolutely no concern for time. As for me, time has absolutely flown by, and I keep wishing that it would just slow down, or that I would develop the Peruvian way of looking at time (which is to completely ignore it). I am at the half way point in my journey; as I write this post I have been in Peru for 22 days and have 21 more days to go.  My desire to stop the clock has made me realize how important it is to cherish and savor each and every moment that I have here in Peru whether it be in the clinic, in the barrios, or even in my downtime with the Sisters, people at La Casa and the workers at la Maternidad.

This week has afforded me many opportunities both in and out of the clinic. On Thursday evening I attended the bachelorette party of one of our workers Magaly who is tying the knot with  another worker at the clinic, Luis. The workers have graciously accepted me as one of their own and I love that I am able to spend time with them and celebrate this special event with Magaly. The bachelorette party was hosted in her parents home, and the spouses of all of the girls were also in attendance. There was a lot of food, music, dancing, and laughter. Most of the laughter was directed at me, since I am an absolutely HORRIBLE dancer, but was doing my best to keep in sync with the music and the swaying hips and shoulders of my co-workers. (Pictures from the event will be featured in the next post since they are on the camera of a friend who is currently in Lima!)

IMG_3054 IMG_3051

IMG_3075

On Monday night I attended their wedding. The invitation stated that the wedding ceremony would be held at 7, so the three Americans (Sisters Margaret Mary and Lillian and myself) showed up promptly at 7 to find that we were the first to arrive and that they were still setting up for the wedding. People started coming in around 8 and the wedding only began at 8:45. Incase you don’t know me well, I absolutely LOVE weddings. Growing up my Friday nights were dedicated to TLC’s wedding night and I would always be found watching the latest episode of Say Yes to the Dress. I loved every moment of their wedding (even the time spent waiting for it to start!) and am so very glad that I was able to share in their special day and watch them tie the knot!

Life at the clinic has been just as exciting as my night life. Each day is a new adventure and presents itself with new places and new faces. On Friday I went food shopping with two of the workers. Now it wasn’t Whole Foods, but it was an absolutely amazing experience. The market is about four city blocks long, and is completely outdoors. We had a two page list of things that we needed, and spent 3 hours walking through the alleys bargaining with the vendors.

 I have spent a lot of time traveling to different areas of Chimbote this week. On Monday morning we traveled an hour away to Santa Rosa to bring blankets to three houses. There are no words to describe how these people live. After three weeks in Peru I have become accustomed to seeing the bare minimum in their homes, but these houses were the worst I have seen. It absolutely broke my heart to see the way that they live, but I was able to bring them joy through the blankets as well as through stickers given to me by my Grandmother prior to my trip! The children absolutely LOVE the stickers and it serves as a testament to how little it takes to bring joy to the life of a child.

Some of the faces of Peru:

IMG_3022IMG_2762

IMG_3014IMG_2798IMG_2816

And of course my day wouldn’t be complete with out some time with Pedro. The only time that doesn’t fly is the hour with this little guy in my arms!

IMG_1662

IMG_1657

Until next time,

signature1

It’s a girl

Each day I find myself questioning “how can it get any better than this“?

And then each day it gets a little bit better. I get a little more comfortable with my surroundings, speak a little more Spanish and witness something absolutely INCREDIBLE.

Sundays are usually my day off. After Mass with the Sisters I returned to the Casa to rest. And rest is exactly what I did, until 11 o’clock when I was woken up to our cook pounding on my bedroom door. One of the workers from the maternity had come to the house to tell me that I needed to go to the maternity right away. I had no clue what was so important especially after I had just been there to visit Pedrito a few hours before. When I arrived I was greeted with a fiesta! One of the orphans, James, is celebrating his first birthday on the 22nd and the children and staff had all gathered in the yard to celebrate his special day! The fiesta was huge, complete with music, professional dancers, cake and candy galore!

After a wonderful celebration I headed to the beach with people from La Casa. It was my first time in the Pacific Ocean and the view was absolutely incredible. I throughly enjoyed reflecting on my week with my toes in the sand soaking in the warm Peruvian sun.

Monday was another day of home visits. Ellie and I ventured into a different section of Chimbote called San Pedro. The houses that we visited were on top of a mountain and we had to climb up the mountain to reach them. It was quite the hike, especially when you have to carry up your medical supplies and donations for the families with you. I really appreciate the fact that the clinic does not simply care for the medical needs of their patients. In addition to providing them with quality medical care they also provide clothing, bedding and food.

IMG_2660

The first house we visited is in need of new beds. We made arrangement with the woman, who has horrible arthritis, to bring new beds to her later this week. Like every person I have encountered on the home visits, she was extremely grateful. It is so hard for me to understand how they can be so grateful when they have so little, but yet the Peruvian people beam with gratitude for all that we do for them, and have so much pride for all that they have, although in most cases they have barely anything.

The view from their houses was absolutely INCREDIBLE, which made the trek up the mountain so worth it! We visited several other houses, assessing their needs, and making arrangements to return with donations.

Later that afternoon another INCREDIBLE thing happened: I witnessed my first birth. Mothers are constantly giving birth at the clinic, but I always seem to arrive too late to see the delivery. The nursing staff came to get me around 4 in the afternoon and I was able to be with the staff and the mother for the entire “process”.  I was also able to step in and be of assistance during the delivery, and by “assistance” I mean I was told to close the windows in the room because I was the only one who was tall enough to reach them. The mother was so incredibly calm and gave birth to a little girl at 6:05. It was an absolutely wonderful way to end my day.

On Tuesday I broke from my usual schedule and went on home visits again. We returned to the houses we had visited the day before with the supplies for the families. This time we traveled by car, thank goodness because there was no way I could carry a mattress up a mountain!

IMG_2718

Each morning I pray with the workers at the clinic. I have become very close to them in such a short period of time and love that we start each morning together. As part of the prayers (which I have now perfected in Spanish) we recite the mission statement of the center.

In Spanish:

Pidamos de Dios , que El nos ilumine, que nos Guie y que nos Proteja para servir con AMOR CHRISTIANO con un ESPIRITU DE ALEGRIA creando un ambiente de AMOR y ESPERANZA.

In English:

Let us ask that God enlightens us, guides us and protects us to serve with Christian love with a spirit of joy creating an atmosphere of LOVE and HOPE.

The Maternidad is truly an oasis of hope and love and I find myself to be blessed each and every day to be able to serve in such an incredible environment. And to answer my initial question, it can’t get much better than that.

Until next time,

Kate

Patients and Patience

Mis Nuevos Amigos, Hector and Sandra!

It’s hard to think that four days have passed since I boarded a plane in Boston and headed to Peru! Upon arriving in Peru, after a very long flight, I requested a taxi to take me from the airport to the bus terminal which is about an hour away. I got to the bus terminal around 7 AM and waited patiently for my 12:30 bus. Around 11:45 I began to get anxious, hoping that they would announce the arrival of the bus headed to Chimbote. People were lining up at one of the terminals and I decided to get in line with them. In broken Spanish I asked if this was the bus to Chimbote; it wasn’t.  However a kind man (my guardian angel for the day) stepped in and told me that 1. I needed to check my suitcase in at the baggage claim and 2. I needed to wait 10 more minutes for my bus to arrive. This kind man was ironically seated across from me on our 8 hour ride to Chimbote.

I was greeted at the bus stop by Sr. Lillian and Sarah, a fellow American from Alaska who will also be working at the clinic through July and August. All of my fears were relieved knowing that I was safe at my destination and that I would have someone by my side who also spoke English. We took a cab to La Casa de Iglesia, a Diocesan Center, where I will be staying for the next two months. I was shocked at how spacious the Casa is, especially my room. For the first time in my life I have my own bathroom! Hey, when you’re miles from home its the little things that bring you joy and excitement (like bathrooms and large bedrooms).

The next morning I began work at the Clinic. The Clinic, which I was able to tour today, includes an orphanage, a pharmacy, a laboratory, an outpatient clinic, a physical therapy unit and the maternity hospital. They serve over 1,000 patients a day, ranging in age from newborn babies to the dying elderly! When I arrive at 8 in the morning patients are  already lining up to be seen by the nurses and doctors, it is an incredible sight to see so many people and to see the care that the center provides!

Our days start at 8 AM and we work until 6, taking a small break for lunch around noon. This week I am working in the orphanage. Although I am eager to get the chance to work in the actual clinic and go on home visits, I am so excited to spend time working with the 16 children in the orphanage and improving my Spanish with the nurses. The children, who were either abandoned by their parents or taken away by the courts, have stolen my heart and have already taught me so many lessons.

Sandra (my favorite little lady) riding on the fire truck!

I’ve learned that love has no language barrier. The children do not care that I speak broken Spanish or that I keep smiling when people talk to me because I am only comprehending half of what they are saying (I’m working on comprehending ALL that they say, but it’s a work in progress)! All they want is affection, and trust me they have mine.

I’ve learned that I need to practice having patience. Patience with learning and speaking Spanish, and patience with the children. Yesterday I struggled to feed a little boy named Jesus. He didn’t want to eat, and he was content with taking his food and throwing it at me. But a deep breath, a quick prayer, and some patience  we were able to get more rice into his mouth than into my hair. Also, incase you are wondering it takes a while to get mashed up rice and chicken out of your hair!

Practicing our Spanish!

As you can probably tell by the pictures the children and the people of Peru have already stolen my heart. I am so grateful for this experience and all that I have learned in the past few days and cannot wait to see what is next.

Until next time,

signature1

Goodbyes and Good Signs

 

The last few days, in short, have been HECTIC but in the absolute best way possible!

Unpacking from a relaxing family vacation, repacking for this trip, saying goodbye to family and friends, indulging in my favorite treats from local restaurants, and of course celebrating America’s birthday have left me with little time for reflection.

With bags packed, good-byes said, and stuffed to the brim with all of my favorite foods, I am now en route to my destination. Over the next 24 hours I will travel over 11 hours by plane and nine by car and bus, leaving me with PLENTY of time to gather my thoughts (and brush up on my Spanish)!

Over the past few weeks I have been looking for signs, something to ease my apprehensions of traveling alone to a different country (especially one that does not speak English)! Despite my constant self-reassurance that this is where I am meant be, that I am being sent to Chimbote for a reason, there have been times where I have been anxious about my journey.

My sign came to me last Saturday in the weekend’s Gospel reading. Wedged between my parents at mass, I listened as the Deacon proclaimed the following verse from Mark’s Gospel, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.

Faith. All I need, all I have is faith.

With faith in my heart I am excited to see where this journey will lead. Also, a special thank you to YOU for following me on this adventure, your faith, love and support mean more to me than you will ever know!

Until next time,

signature1