A couple of days ago we sorted thousands of pencils, notebooks, erasers and other school supplies into 153 backpacks. These backpacks go to children in need to provide supplies required for school attendance. Our first round of distribution was last night, and what a great time it was. Imagine the just barely controlled chaos of excited children, parents, volunteers and interested onlookers in the open-air church called Vida Abundante (Abundant Life).
At this distribution site, our focus was on students identified by Pastor Mariela as those most in need of help. Dressed in their Sunday best, they first attended a church service then waited patiently to receive their backpacks. The air was filled with the type of anticipation we all probably felt as children just before gifts were to be opened at Christmas. But would we have been as grateful as these children were to receive simple notebooks, rulers and glue sticks?
After our lists were checked, students were called to the front to choose a backpack that had been filled with the required materials for their grade level. Then they tried on shoes, picked out two pair of new socks and finally, selected new underwear from the precious supply of donations.
“It’s very good to help the kids when we can’t buy what we need. If we have no materials, we don’t go (to school),” said Antonio, a student headed to the university. He hopes to become an acenciado, or a licensed professional such as an attorney.
As students left, many practiced their English with a “thank you” to volunteers. Other church members gave hugs and kisses to the FOC volunteers, saying “Dios le bendiga” or God bless you.
Asked for a comment in English, Pastor Mariela said “Happy, happy, happy.” Then in Spanish she added “This is so wonderful to see all the children smiling. This project is such a blessing to our community.” –Phyllis