Some of us have had the good fortune to spend a day or two in Guayaquil with Sr. Annie (Ann Credido, BVM) at Damien House. Two years ago, I had that good fortune, and always wanted to find my way back again. So this year I have had the great fortune to be at Damien House for two weeks, and it has been wonderful. How time flies when you are eating caldo de bola, patacones, and arroz con pollo every day!
One of my big questions was “What do I have to offer?” I have no health or medical background, or physical therapy. I can’t even cut hair! But my daughter reminded me that I love to read to people, and so I brought stories in Spanish with me here to Guayaquil. Every day, the women and I have a story time before lunch, and I read to them. We talk about what the characters are doing, give assessments of their good and bad qualities, and try to predict what will happen next. It has become a fun time for discussion with them altogether. I want to try to build up a small library for them before I leave.
My son also reminded me that I like to hear people’s stories, so I am also talking to some of the residents and staff one-on-one and writing their stories. Everyone has been so kind about sitting and talking with me.
I was a Mary Frances Clarke scholarship student when I was at Clarke, and it has been a delight to meet staff here at Damien House who have also been the recipients of such scholarships for their studies. This includes the food services chief, the pharmacy tech, a nurse, and the office assistant. What a rich life Mary Frances Clarke has given us all!
Being with Annie is pure delight. She has everyone smiling and laughing, and feeling a sense of belonging. I hope to help her post-visit with some grant-writing, or whatever else she puts me to doing. I asked one of the men that I interviewed, “Besides the health and living care that you have here at Damien House, what is the most important thing that the residents need?” His answer was, “that the residents be understood as individuals.” And, he said, “we are.”