Rooftop Reflections

Gratitude. 

Over the past week I have found so much to be thankful for.

I am grateful to have Sundays off. Today I am spending my afternoon basking in the Peruvian sun on the roof of the Casa.  After my first experience with a Spanish washing machine, I am watching my clothes dry as they sway on the rooftop clothesline. I have this huge fear that something will blow off the roof and into the streets of Chimbote so I am currently keeping a close eye on them!

I have found solace on this roof and have decided it is the perfect spot to reflect and come to understand all that has happened to me this week.

I am thankful for the Sisters. Sister Lillian and Sister Margaret Mary are two of the most amazing individuals that I have ever met, and they are the perfect example of women who have gone above and beyond to answer God’s call. Each morning I venture with them to Mass prior to beginning our day at La Maternidad. They are so devout in their faith and have been so welcoming to me. This morning we traveled to a small little chapel which is about a 20 minute walk from La Casa. The Sisters like this Mass because it is at 9 (most churches in Chimbote celebrate Mass at 7) and allows us to sleep in, but also because it is a beautiful and vibrant service (nothing like I have ever seen back home).

The people of Chimbote LOVE the Sisters, and have also welcomed me as one of their own. I am grateful for Mass as it gives me a time to reflect, a time to grow in my faith, and also grow closer to the Sisters.

I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason.

This week I met a group of individuals who I truly believe were placed in my life for a reason. They were a group of ten Americans from the Diocese of Pittsburgh traveling on a mission trip to Chimbote. They were my guardian angels for the week; they welcomed me into their “family”as if I was one of their own and proved to be a constant source of strength and faith throughout my first week in Peru. I wish to send lots of love and gratitude from Peru to my new friends back in Pittsburgh!

I am grateful for the children at the orphanage, each day they steal an even bigger piece of my heart. Although all of the children deserve notice, there are two children whose stories have held particular meaning this week and I would love for you to know more about them.

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Luciana is a sweet one year old girl who was born with a brain deformity in which she only has half of her brain. She is mute and blind, some of the nurses believe that she is also deaf, but I tend to disagree. She has been able to see her first birthday due to the love and care by the staff at the orphanage. The nurses keep her clean, happy, and fed, and that is all this sweet girl needs. She also receives tons of love from me, I have come to think she enjoys being held in my arms as much as I enjoy holding her.

Peter, who is now 12 days old, is not in the orphanage but is new to the Maternidad and is currently in their neonatal unit. He was abandoned by his parents in a public bathroom in the middle of town. He was later found and brought to the local public hospital. He was transported to our clinic on Thursday. Later in the day I was able to hold him and bring him a brand new hat made with love from our family friend, Mrs. Lambert. I found it so hard to understand how someone could literally toss away something so beautiful, and am so grateful that he is now in the protective care of the Maternidad because I know that so very often Peruvian children like Peter are unable to get the love, care and attention that they truly deserve.

Tomorrow I begin the next phase of my Peruvian adventure. After morning Mass with the Sisters I will be embarking on my first home visit. I will be traveling with the medical staff to the more impoverished areas of Chimbote (known as the Barrios) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be working in the clinic and shadowing the on-site psychologist. Mental issues are very prevalent here in Peru because there is a lack of available resources for patients who suffer from a mental illness, and the psychologist at the clinic is in high demand. On Saturdays I will return home to my babies at the orphanage. As you can see, my days will be very busy, but I wouldn’t want my time in Chimbote to be spent any other way.

Saint Catherine of Siena once said “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” God has sent me to Chimbote for a reason, and I am eager and anxious to begin this next adventure and to set Peru ablaze with my love and compassion for these wonderful people.

Until next time,

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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,

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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,

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Providence to Peru


Providence to Peru

T-minus 5 days

In early October I began the process of applying to become a 2015  Father Smith Fellow. I told my parents of my aspirations to spend the summer abroad and my intentions of applying for one of the fellowships which are awarded annually on a competitive basis to ten Providence College students. My parents, who are use to my rather large plans and dreams, said “if it’s meant to be it will happen” which is their nice way of saying “it’s not going to happen, Kaitlyn so do not get your hopes up.” Determined and with my hopes set high, I began searching the internet for Dominicans who were living and serving abroad. A biology and psychology major, my search was directed towards service sites that included a medical clinic.  I have always had an interest in third-world medicine and have desired to travel and assist individuals who have inadequate health care. My search led me all the way to  Chimbote, Peru and the Centro De Obras Sociales where fellow Friar,  Julia Guerette, traveled as a 2014 Smith Fellow.

Centro De Obras Sociales was created in 1963  in an attempt to alleviate the medical needs of the poor in Peru. Run by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan the clinic, which began as a small three room out-patient clinic, has expanded over the years to provide healthcare as well as spiritual care to the needy. Their mission to “serve the Poor with Christian Charity regardless of their economic status” and “give quality medical care with loving concern for those in need” resonated with me and I knew that, if chosen for the fellowship program, I would travel to Chimbote.

Several months, numerous emails to Sr. Lillian in Peru, and many nights spent in  St. Dominic’s Chapel praying that it was His will for me to embark on such an incredible journey, I received an email saying that I was awarded a Father Smith Fellowship.

With an open heart, accompanied by extreme excitement,  I am now preparing to embark on my month-and-a-half-long journey to Peru. I am so humbled and blessed to be representing Providence College and to have this incredible opportunity at the clinic. This blog will serve as my main communication to everyone back home over the next few weeks and will allow me to show everyone what I am doing while I am away, so be sure to check back often!!

It’s time for me to say goodbye to Providence and hello (or maybe ¡Hola!) to Peru.

Until next time,

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