Thursday, February 13, 2014

Home again--by Cathy

This is my first official week back in the US and I’m still adjusting to being at home. For those of you who don’t know, I’m in Professor Fisher-Bornes’ research class and our class teamed up with a nonprofit called “Stop Hunger Now” (SHN) to conduct some research for them as our capstone project. The trip to the Dominican Republic (DR) was a lot to take in emotionally for me. I held back my tears everyday I was there with a smile. The need was so great that it was overwhelming to comprehend at first. From the moment we stepped off the plane, I knew my life would never be the same. During our stay in the DR, I saw the true meaning of selflessness in all of the people we met during our visit. Everyone had different reason for why they came to the DR, but a common thread of wanting to help the people was the same. On our last field visit, I was chosen to be the lead interviewer. The organization was “A Mother’s Wish Foundation” and its founder was Jim Pickard. A Mother’s Wish was a small clinic and preschool. I use the past tense “was” because most of their programs have ended because they don’t have the money to keep them going. Even though they are short of funding, Jim refuses to give up on his dream of helping “his people” as he fondly calls them. A Mother’s Wish still conducts lactation classes once a month for new mothers, has a small tutoring center for children, and distributes SHN meals to the community. The founder Jim Pickard is a tall strong man, who reminded me of the movie star Sam Elliott. He and his wife Rita made the decision in 2003 to change their lives and move to the Dominican Republic to make a difference. He has such a heart for the people that live in the community that he considers himself one of them even though he was born in America. We arrived a little late for the interview, but they were ready for us. Jim and Rita had gathered women from the community to talk to us about the SHN meals for our research. Jim and his wife were very welcoming and eager to tell us about the work they were doing in the rural mountains of the DR. While his wife gave the rest of the group a tour of the facility, Jim sat down with Christina Hooker, Kyle (team leader from SHN), and myself, for our leadership interview. He had a PowerPoint presentation prepared and knew every detail of what he and his organization had done since they opened. This made me curious. How could a man who had seemingly done everything right, run out of funding? So I asked. He said he had one rich benefactor who no longer had the means to keep them going. I went on to ask a few more questions that were on my list, and then I asked one more question. “What would your program do if you didn’t have the SHN meals”? I was taking notes at the time, but when I looked up he was staring at me with tears in his eyes. Then he said, “Lady don’t even joke about that. These meals are the life’s blood to my people. The couldn’t make it without them.” I instantly felt as if I wanted to cry, but I held back the tears and calmly told him that SHN knew the great work he was doing here and would never take away his meals. I asked a few more questions from the interview list, and the interview ended. I heard our host call out that it was time to go, but I had to ask one more question for myself. So, I pulled Jim aside and asked him what he was going to do without funding. His answer was that “he was going to wait on the Lord.” Jim said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to die here doing the work that I love and helping my people.” That night I couldn’t stop thinking about Jim. His last statement haunted me, the fact that “he was going to wait on the Lord.” Then I thought to myself that God uses people to help people, and I decided I was going to be that person to help Jim. He and his wife had changed a rural village community by his compassion. Because Jim and his wife started “A Mother’s Wish Foundation,” the community he now calls his own had reduced the rate of infant mortality to nearly zero. He and his wife were making a real difference and had the numbers to prove it. So, in the middle of the night, I took pen to paper and made out a plan to raise money for Jim and A Mother’s Wish. If your check out my Facebook page it reports that I’m a romantic, but I also believe in the goodness of people. I know it’s not the way of the world, but in the world that I live in “no man who does good for others is left unrewarded.”

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