To have nothing and still have much to give

Published: 20 May 2016 22:07 CET

By: Diana Medina, Communications Manager - IFRC Americas Regional Office

When Ecuadorian Red Cross vehicles arrive at distribution centres, emotions run high among those who are awaiting help.  Their faces are full of hope.  Children are laughing.  Regardless, everything at the distribution centres transpire in an orderly fashion.  Heads of families organize themselves in single file so that the barcode cards containing each family’s information can be verified.

Once Ecuadorian Red Cross volunteers finish organizing everything, the distribution begins.  Like myself, there are a few of us who are not part of the team responsible for the distribution.  We stand aside and talk to people, listening to their stories and asking about their lives after such a tragic event.

They speak about their lives with such candor.  Although there is much pain, there is also a desire to start over.  Nobody wants to be left in the void; they know that times are tough right now, but many have already gone back out to the streets to look for a job - any job – to find something that will not only allow them to earn a living again, but to feel that they can move on with their lives despite the widespread sorrow in the affected areas.

Here I am, witness to their emotions, witness to eagerness to overcome their current situation.  Witness to their yearning to take their lives back and go forward.  The aid distributed by the Ecuadorian Red Cross provides a spark for these people.  Some of them tell me that the tools they are being given will be put to good use, not just in improving their temporary homes, but in helping others overcome their adversity.  Here I am, listening to their stories, wanting so badly to help without really knowing how.

I’m witness to their lives and that seems to be enough as some kind of intangible help that they need at this moment.  So much so, that when we left, someone took me by the arm and said “please don’t leave without this.”  They opened their hands and shows me a pair of earrings.

“They’re yours now, my mother wants you to have them.”

For a moment, I don’t really know what to answer.  I insist that it’s not necessary, that they’re better off keeping them so they can use them at a later time.  But they insist too…

“Please take them, it’s the only way I can thank your for everything that you’re doing for my family… and for Ecuador.”