Thoughts from the porch in Santa Ana…
When we come down for a short trip, whether one week or even one month, we are consumed by work. Our time is so limited that we push ourselves to the edge, remaining however, fully aware that our “real” lives will soon pull us back to a more routine and sustainable existence. For the first time, I have gotten the privilege to stay behind with Orfe, Ismael, Baby Cati (Anita), Franklin, Hermana Pamela and Peter to experience what their daily existence entails when our groups are not disrupting every aspect of their lives.
Orfe’s day somehow includes taking care of a one year old whose well deserved nickname is “Trouble,” running a household of 7, cooking three meals a day, and an endless stack of dishes and laundry to wash by hand. Add on to this that her life is currently divided into two houses, one of which is in a state of construction and you will not wonder at my surprise that somehow she maintains a full time job for SewHope, helping all those in need with an endless stream of compassion and kindness.
Ismael, Franklin and Peter are continuing their work on the house with the hope of moving in on Monday (earlier this week). Amidst the chaos, Franklin helps care for Anita with all the patience I would never expect from a 15 year old boy. Peter helps out in any way he can while searching for his niche to make the most of his unique environmental passion and knowledge.
Hermana Pamela fits into life here seamlessly. She made a possibly imaginary friend named Cornelius (a GIANT spider). She lost a chicken this morning, which has now returned to her. Perhaps it was “Up on the Roof.” Her main goals here involve microfinance and education, but she maintains a positive outlook even when many of her days are filled with other tasks.
Transportation seems to be the biggest obstacle for the group down here. With multiple projects in different locations, getting people to where they can make the biggest impact seems impossible. Of course, the impossible somehow happens in Guatemala, so I have no doubt that a solution will be found.
I have to admit that I feel somewhat lost without the clinic and my patients. There can be little more satisfying in this world than working hard all day with women who need and appreciate your help. The sense of purpose that fills me with energy is less easy to hold on to now that “La Clinica” is no longer the priority. Too much time for self doubt, perhaps? The usual questions of “Why do I come down here? And have I really changed anything?”surface once again. I don’t have the answers, but while I sit on this porch with the rain gently tapping the roof, chickens and ducks wandering around, the boys and Hermana Pamela making a chair and laughing at each other, I know that this is what we are fighting for: this calm, this peace, this sense of community.
Puja Venkat is a first year resident at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan in what is called a transitional year. Next year Puja will begin a four year residency at Moffett Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, in the field of radiation oncology. Puja chose this field because cancer is such a life-changing medical diagnosis, and she feels that she can help people come to terms with the changes and the fear in one of the most fragile times of their lives. Puja has joined SewHope for five trips to Guatemala working with the medical team in the clinics each time. One of her trips extended for a full month. After so much time of service here, Puja now speaks Spanish. We wish you well Puja and look forward to your next visit here.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012