So, I have been putting off writing about the comedores (soup kitchens) that I work at for some time now. I kept thinking that I would write about them after I had processed all my emotions and thoughts about them, but honestly I don’t know when that will be. I have been working at the comedores for 6 weeks now, and I still can’t process them. On Tuesdays and Thursdays are when I work at the comedores, the other days I am teaching English in Colegio Berea, and I go to one in the morning to serve breakfast, then I leave to go help at another one to serve lunch.
The comedor I work at in the mornings is very close to an area called “La Estacion.” This area used to be home to a beautiful train station,but once the trains stopped running the whole area suffered. Now the area behind the train station is home to many families, who are living on land that is technically owned by the government, but no taxes are enforced, and the people living there have no rights to their property. There are remains of the track, and parts of the cars that are used as walls, or even rooms. The living conditions are less than ideal, and usually cramped with kids running around everywhere. Many kids that live in La Estacion don’t go to school and they just lie around all day, because they have no supervision. There are many parents that spend the little money that they have on alcohol and the kids are not getting properly fed. So on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the soup kitchen is opened for kids of all ages to come and eat breakfast, and also get lessons from the bible. On an average weekday there are about 20 kids that come for breakfast and they range in age from 2 months to 20 years old. I have yet to see a parent walk their child to the soup kitchen. They come in small groups with the older kids being responsible for their younger siblings or friends. In some cases the older kid is 6, taking care of a 3 year old. But the kids aren’t bitter or resentful, they are so unbelievably welcoming and kind to everyone they meet. As I walked through La Estacion with my director, Jacinto, I felt overwhelmed with emotions. I felt sad and mad and guilty and spoiled and way out of place, wondering what I was doing there. But while we were walking through the neighborhood I had a little girl, Lizette, run up and take my hand to show me around and go to the comedor with me. After that moment I felt much more comfortable about where I was. My first day in La Estacion I was greeted by every kid individually and I received so many hugs and welcomes it was great. Everyday that I’m there I learn new things about the kids and I love listening to their stories and having them teach me games (which they are shocked that I don’t know, because obviously everyone learns these games when they’re kids.) I would like to say that it is getting easier for me to process my emotions being there, and that the shock is gone, but I can’t. It is just as hard as the first day for me, but in a different way. The more I learn about the kids and their living conditions the harder it gets. There are times when I wish that I could just give them all the money they need to live better, and attend school, but I can’t and i’m not sure that would help anyways. For now though I am just going to try and be the happy, positive person that I normally am, and hope that I am helping them in some way.
here is a picture of the train station now. The kids live in houses directly behind it.