This morning we packed our bags at Building Believers in Christ, where we stayed with Josh and Jessica, two missionaries who work with Soles4Souls to plan our trip.
We loaded our bus and drove about 20 minutes to the City of Refuge, which is currently a building site for Josh and Jessica’s new community center. Their work involves helping Guatemalans in Chiquimula to learn trades, computer work, etc. There is currently a clinic where Jessica sees Guatemalans from the community, and soon there will be an orphanage to help the children of Chiquimula.
Once we got to the building area, we loaded our arms up with shoes and toys and walked two minutes through the back alley where there were chickens, goats and dogs roaming around. Women were hanging laundry outside their homes. We arrived to a public elementary school. We could hear the buzz of classes in session, and we set up our fitting on their outside recess area. Fitting these students with shoes was different compared to yesterday’s experience up in the mountains of Chiquimula. Even though this is a public school, it is so rural they have issues getting books for their students to learn. The lack of supplies is extreme here in Guatemala. This students were smiley, talkative and playing with each other. Here, we didn’t feel like we were foreigners as much.
The kids lined up very nicely, waiting for their shoes. We had a sizer, five fitters, a couple inventory people from our team and a few volunteers to plan games with the kids after they had been fitted. These kids were full of life, energy and curiosity. It was nice to have some downtime with the kids to get to know them – laugh and play! Ben played futbol with the kids, I taught them how to jump rope! Ben and I brought kids’ stickers from our Stan’s stores and gave them to the kids – it was amazing how excited they were for stickers!! I had a bag full of them, and they were all grabbing at me with open hands, grasping for stickers and laughing! It was such a powerful moment for me, being surrounded with all these giggling kids who were overjoyed that they were receiving a sticker! It was so overwhelming, I had to ask “How do I say a line in Spanish??” In the moment of excitement, my mind went blank. “Fila!,” a fellow trip-goer yelled at me. Once I yelled “Fila! Fila!” they quickly got into a line. They listened and had such a great respect towards us, their teachers and each other. They were open to us being at their school and greeted us with open arms! These children were a joy to be around – polite, thankful and loving. Each one said goodbye with a hug – I will never forget these children.
Yesterday, in addition to the feeding center where we did a fitting, we traveled to a malnutrition center near the market area of Chiquimula. We met a spunky 4 year-old, Elsa. Elsa is a one-of-a-kind child, full of energy and with a huge personality! It’s typical for Guatemalans to be soft-spoken and shy. She touched all of us so deeply.
Nicole Koglin from Fox 6 donated a pair of shoes for a little girl. These shoes were special because they were her daughter, Emma’s, shoes. After leaving the school we decided to go to the feeding center to fit Elsa with these shoes.
We arrived at the malnutrition center to find Elsa. She was in the middle of eating, but her aunt said that it would be okay for us to visit with her. She immediately yelled, “Hola! Hola! Hola!” at us. I knelt down next to her and she immediately saw Emma’s shoes. She seemed a little confused with a look that said, “Are these for me?” She grabbed the shoes and held on to them for a while, taking them in and looking at me with questioning eyes. Her aunt said to her in Spanish, “Let her put them on Elsa!” She reluctantly gave the shoes back and trusted me enough to place the shoes on her feet. It was a perfect fit!
It was a moment for our entire group – so powerful! They fit so perfectly, and she even had just the right amount of growing room left. Elsa’s aunt was very grateful. We couldn’t leave without Elsa’s kisses, though.
Thank you to Nicole and Emma – your shoes went to a very lucky and special girl. We will cherish that special moment forever.