Name: Sofia Isaac
From: Hollywood, FL
I was only in fifth grade when I began volunteering at La Casita, a Catholic based food bank for impoverished women. The concept of a food bank was foreign, but the old battered cars parked outside the fenced-in patio indicated that not everyone was there to volunteer.
The number of women cluttered inside was striking. Some of the older ladies were rested up against a wall with their eyes closed, their lips silently moving as their fingers traced rosary beads, while some younger women had children clinging onto their tired legs. Inside, tattered walls held shelves filled with religious figurines of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. Above the kitchen door read a sign “Con Dios, todo es posible” meaning “With God, all is possible.”
However minor these details first appeared to me, I would later learn how a little faith could go a long way. A firm ideology amongst all the volunteers is what drove us to handle not only the rice filled Ziploc bags carefully, but also the people who are receiving the food. Even as we distributed the bags of food, we asked these women about troubles they are facing in their physical, emotional and spiritual lives through interviews. The first time I conducted an interview, I was so nervous I could barely ask a question without my words stumbling to a halt. However, by the fourth time, I learned which questions opened enough confidence for these ladies to confide in me about the sufferings they have undergone.
Sometimes these women were modest about the hardships they faced, even when their responses to my questions were interrupted from the sound of their growling stomachs. As important as companionship and spiritual guidance was, it was always so rewarding to look into a set of tired eyes and watch them flicker with gratitude as I handed my interviewee her food. Watching her hands guide a slice of bread into her mouth before she was even out the door is a memory that’ll never rid my mind.
There were also countless days in which an extra hand was needed outside the kitchen. A neat line of wooden desks below the hot Miami sun functioned as the classroom in which I would teach English to women who only spoke Spanish. These days, although the most challenging, were my favorite. Oftentimes my pupils’ attention would trail off as if anything was more interesting than the difference between leaf and leave.
On the other hand, the wide smiles I received when a tough concept was finally captured made every complaint worth bearing. Hearing their uncertain tones and harsh vowels, I yielded a connection with these women as an immigrant myself. They have had to restart their lives, and as they struggle for nourishment, they’ve also had to fight to adapt to a new culture. Whatever they needed, we tried our best to supply, and this compassion is what makes my involvement at La Casita unlike any other community service project I have ever experienced.