Now that I’ve been there I “feel” the knowing. To enter the gates of Amigos, with all the children eager to welcome us with hugs, was more sensory and visual input then I was able to absorb. There was a serenity that blanketed the scene; a surrealism about it. As we joined the children at play, and entered their “comedor” to eat with them, the thought kept passing through my mind, “boy, I feel as though I am on a National Geographic special, in a third world…wait, I AM in a third world country, and this is what it feels like: hot, dirty, tiresome, and oh so simple.” Images still snap through my mind of the children: always being affectionate, of them cleaning their dishes with buckets of water, of them patiently watching us eat our meal to see if we might have some leftover that they could finish, of their large, dark eyes so attentive to you in trying to communicate, and of their prayer of “Thank you, Father” during prayer circle where we gathered at night, holding hands, reflecting on the day.
The layout of Amigos gave the impression of a retreat center, multiple buildings, spread largely around rolling terrain, a woods path to the school, and large playing fields. And I thought, in a way, that for the children they had “retreated” here, to a safe haven, away from the extreme difficulties their life had once known. There was safety here, serenity here, and there was love. It struck me, not only from the children, to me and my other daughter who visited with me, but in observing the padrinos and madrinas, the other Honduran staff, and from the gringo volunteers, there was immense love, displayed in their patience, their smiles, their presence.
Now that I’ve been there, I “feel” the knowing of extreme fatigue, extreme heat, where you can find no relief, and the need for extreme perseverance to plug through very long hours. It is awe inspiring how the volunteers have done it, how they can get pass the physical and mental strain, and say they love it, and that leaving will be a bittersweet. True, the kids are beautiful and amazing to have weathered more hardship then any child should ever have had to, but it was the volunteers who really stole my heart (and not just because one is my daughter!). Their spirits were vibrant with the light of the Spirit. There was a quiet peace about them all, they went through their day, not pretentious in proclaiming to change the world, or overly zealous in language or deed. But rather worked methodically and pleasantly, interacting with the children with great compassion and humor, they were, in the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “the feet with which Christ’s is to go about doing good, and the hands with which Christ is to bless all people.”
And so, now that I have been there, I am glad, and I am changed by all the many experiences I had and witnessed. And I now know that Amigos has been changed, for the better and for good, because six very special, and dare I say, holy, young people, persevered to make it that way.
-Patricia Gardner, mother of Joanna Gardner, volunteer 2013-2014