We can easily summarize this teaching with the phrase: Put the needs of the poor FIRST. Jesus tells us that, in the kingdom of heaven, the last shall be first. Think of how much better a place our world would be, our school would be, if we lived by this principle. We would not have to wait for heaven.....we would experience heaven right here on earth! I think that is what Jesus wants.
Sometimes we think that it is enough to give the poor our leftovers. Jesus tells us that the poor are to get the first servings, the best things, and WE are to be satisfied with whatever is left. Think of when Jesus fed the multitude of people with five loaves and two fishes. There were LOTS of leftovers. We just have to believe.
I recently visited a clinic where the poor are put first. It is an eye clinic and hospital for the poor. It is a wonderful and adequate facility. The staff are respectful of each person seeking assistance. I saw so much loving care especially for the very old and the very young. There is a program there that provides free eye consultations, glasses and surgeries for children 15 years of age and younger. The poor who are older also receive excellent and respectful service, but they pay a little bit. I think that the doctors and nurses who work at this clinic must go home very happy every night knowing that they put the poor first all day.
Each year at your school, the school nurse tests your eyes to make sure that you can see the board and do your school work well. In Purushila, the children do not have a school nurse and no child has his or her eyes tested. Not one student in Purushila wears glasses. This year, SewHope provided an eye chart, and I tested the eyes of the students in the schools age six years and older, about 200 students. The conditions were far from ideal, but the hope was that if this simple test enabled us to suspect an eye problem, that we would be able to find further help for that child.
From the testing and additional recommendations from the teachers, five children with at least one of their parents visited the eye hospital about 45 minutes from Purushila. Ismael drove all of us in the van. All five of the students were tested just as you would be in an eye doctor's office in the USA. Orfe spoke with the doctor regarding the needs of each of the children. All five of them were given prescriptions for glasses. Two of the boys will return in a few months to be checked again and hopefully they will have surgery on their eyes to correct serious problems and blindness.
When the children went to be fitted for their glasses, the nurse took out a shoebox and tried on each pair in the box to see which one fit the child best. Someone had donated these frames. The child did not choose which frames he or she liked best. The child accepted whatever frames the nurse found most suitable. The frames will then be fitted with the prescription and we will return in about two weeks to pick them up.
If anyone can provide simple frames for children, we would give them to this eye hospital for the next children who need them.
My favorite thing of the whole experience was to see 14 year old Jose Luis smile all the way home!! It was my bit of heaven for the day!
I don't know how many adults and children still have eye problems in Purushila, but I do know that five of God's poorest children were given the gift of hope and sight today.
Below are some pictures of the hospital and the children.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012