Volunteers In Mission
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
“The greatest Christian virtue is doing, the least is talking.
“Beware you be not swallowed up in books!
“An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
I have seldom been so rewarded for being a Methodist as on my fourth trip to Colonet, Baja California, where I was privileged to interpret for Doug McNeil and Kevin Kinsella while they worked on a Lighting For Literacy (LFL) project guiding middle school students in lighting up the lives of eight families living in Ejido Punta Colonet. In doing so they also lighted up middle school STEM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in the minds of students who put together the lighting systems and went to Colonet to install them.
The cats at Los Gatos Methodist Church (LGMC) and Rotary International (RI) know (LFL) well, having witnessed it’s lightening fast 60 day gestation and assisted its birth in 2012. Their very first solar lighting installation was actually in Colonet, Baja Ca. Within the next two years LFL projects reached 8- and counting- continents, and introduced STEM and LFL to 1200 and counting middle school students at that age where inner spaces and lives can be lighted up in the process of lighting up remote places. AT Colonet this April I felt enlightened as well. I would go anywhere with these dudes and these children.
Without burdening the reader more heavily with words, a browser will lead to many links, here are a few that can tell about LFL better than I.
The photographs below tell of the experience more clearly than words, and may lead the reader to consider the possibility of LFL:
First job of every morning putting together two units for two houses. I couldn’t see how it was done, but these people did.
The plastic bag holds mounting brackets and connectors. Note all the wires, and the name of the student on the lid.
The rechargeable battery goes in the box too. Simple, no? Yeah, Right!
A fence perfectly representing the environment. The stakes are dried up spikes of cactus plant shoots. They are placed on barbed wire, then tied on with rolled up salvaged black plastic bags.
Below are dried roots of the same cactus- Maguey- dug up from the sullen and reticent gravelly soil with considerable effort, to serve for cooking fires.
Dogs, dogs, dogs, everywhere. We saw no house without doggy gangs of 5 or more. They alert arrival of strangers and fend off coyotes, if they are lucky; but numbers help.
The little Pichons must take care of their own hygiene.
Alejandro cleaning the spines from Prickly Pear cactus …new growth leaves, or nopales are used for a very common vegetable dish. He gave us a one week old dried rattlesnake which he advised us to let dry more, then grind up, and use with any food…like re fried beans and ground rattlesnake. Cascabel con frijoles refritos.
I fell under the spell of this admirable woman. She was a migrant farm worker from Chiapas, not speaking any Spanish; met and married. Their 15 year old son works for a builder and did much of the block construction; 15 years is adult at times. (During WWII my dad worked at a copper mine in Chihuahua. When I was 10 he took me to El Paso and put me on a troop train with $5. I got to Northern CA with some help from the soldiers. Like children in Colonet, we were older when younger then. From this distance that doesn’t seem a bad thing.
I can’t pronounce or recall her name but will never forget her. In this photo Antonio, the pastor of the Christian church in Colonet is helping her dig a footing for a table in her wash house.
Another home when the light was turned on in this dark windowless room. It is only the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb, but What a difference! I like this photo also for the high heeled shoes over the door. There were 3 pairs but I didn’t want to be too intrusive with my photos.
Little silent things like those shoes have much to say if we listen.
Another wash-house with a dog in its shade, and a fenced garden in back overlooking open countrywide. Unseen are 10,000 ft
peaks to the East. –The Sierra de San Pedro Mártir. But here the only vegetation remaining is thorny scrub brush and
maguey cactus; nonetheless it is a beautiful green Spring after heavy Winter rains, and there are stubborn tiny flowers everywhere.
The lights installed, instructions given; the switch is turned on by one of the children; and LFL makes the final point by giving each child a set of age appropriate books; we take a last group photograph. Adios is the perfect word.
Observations about Family
I would have never gone to Colonet without following my children, Amy and John and their Los Gatos family. The April 2017 buildings would not have been successful without my son Fred, who drove 1800 miles to be here; or 3600 if he gets home; or his Colonet counterpart, Ivan. Or pastor Antonio. Or, need it even be said, the VIMers who were the glue that put it together. It strikes me that this LFL project post tells of the nature of family. Families who keep animals in, and desert varmints and coyotes out with close spaced brittle dead stalks of cactus plants, wire and plastic waste; who carve out a place in the desert to imagine a house into existence– no, a home– largely made of trash. That’s what only families can do, like those pictured above.
I acknowledge that fat, happy, flawed, or failing, all I am is family. My parents and grandparents, and my Methodists; even my intolerant or rude fellow citizens; and not least, my children who refuse to let me go through my own rosy second childhood quietly, but take me to places like Colonet, to be nourished or frightened by the life forces of VIM and LFL.; I blame you all for disturbing my golden years; but especially Amy, Fred and John; if they aren’t a blessing disguised as family, who is?
Here you are, in the photos below, my babes, late on that Sunday afternoon, after a long trip and a long drive, framing the first wall. Like, Wow! What Energy! What discipline! What Organization! What Execution! But unfortunately the very next morning I had to go pal around with Doug/ Kevin et al.
So thank you, I suppose, for disturbing my personal quiet, reflective peace!