Paula Aramburu and Ekhiñe Olano have been volunteers of FASFI for 4 months in the Valley of Elias Piña (in the Dominican Republic). Their experience ended in February and their testimonies can help us grow.
How can a look make us feel so vulnerable? What is more powerful, a look or a word? We are not used to looking people in the eyes, what are we afraid of?
At first, we all feel fear and timidity when we stare at the other person, and that’s exactly what we felt in the first moment when our eyes met theirs.
A greeting and a big smile made us avoid the looks. Gradually these looks were becoming love, hugs and protection, to the point of making us feel the warmth of home. You feel protected from everything and the look alone was the principal way of relating. Beyond that nothing else was needed. We are talking about the most beautiful and rewarding sentiments and feelings that we have never had, of being immersed in a reality that we never thought we would be in, and above all, about people who make this experience wonderful and unforgettable. People who do not need much to be HAPPY, who greet you every time they see you and who give you the biggest smile you’ve ever beheld; people who care about you before themselves.
We can say that in these four months that we have spent in the Valley we have experienced everything, situations for which do not have enough words. That moment when you realize that the children are learning to read, that they are beginning to respect each other and especially when you see that they are helping each other is wonderful, at the end of the day, those little details are what make the difference.
“What do I need to be happy?” is a question that many people will often make without finding the answer, but once you have lived this experience, that question makes a 180-degree turn and it is when you begin to ask yourself the following question: “What do I have that I do not need in order to be happy?”
They often say that you are not aware of what you have until you lose it, and it is true, can you imagine yourselves living in a parallel world, in a world where there is neither electricity nor Internet, and there is scarcity of water? We never imagined it either, and much less did we imagine that we would be so fine, that is the moment when you realize that in truth, all those things that we consider necessary in order to live, are completely dispensable.
The Valley is a magical place, where the people make you feel special, different, a better person, because even if you don’t believe it, in this small story, it is they who give you the greater part of the process of learning, teaching you that there is another reality completely different in the world to which we think we belong.
On the other hand, we thank Miguelina and Yomarys for everything they have taught us, for giving us the time we needed to get adjusted, for understanding us, for sharing their experiences with us, for having shown us assurance, trust and affection, and above all, we thank them and all the sisters for caring for us at every moment, for having been concerned about us and for having made us feel protected, wrapped up as by our mothers.
We also want to thank all the people of the Valley for making us feel special, for getting a smile out of us at all times, for all that you have given and taught us throughout all this time, for being as you are, for always being happy and infecting us with your good humor, for defending us against anything, for showing us that we are important to you, for each of the many hugs you have not given, because for us they mean more than you can imagine. Thanks for allowing yourselves to be loved, for making your home ours, for all the smiles that you have given us every day and for always helping us cope with any adversity.
Truly, there are not enough words to thank you for all you have done for us. Thanks to you we are better people, more humane and greater.
We will miss you and we will miss that look of complicity because, above all, it is and will always be SOMETHING OURS and nobody else’s.
By Paula Aramburu and Ekhiñe Olano