By Casey Willemse, Volunteer Project Manager (Bolivia, Cambodia)
This year marks the 20th anniversary of my first trip with S.H.A.R.E. to see projects in Brazil which I was so impressed with that I joined S.H.A.R.E. and the project committee. Over the years I have been more involved by becoming S.H.A.R.E.’s project manager for Bolivia and Cambodia. I would like to give our donors some insight into some of my experiences with the people who have added so much meaning to my life.
I can remember doing a project for an orphanage which had about 65 young boys aged approximately 6 to 16 years of age. The boys went to school either mornings or afternoons. The orphanage had a large garden to grow their own food, a bakery and a small woodworking shop. When the boys are not in class, they are expected to work in one of the three areas. The work experience will help them get jobs later in life and it aids in supporting the orphanage as there is very little government support. S.H.A.R.E. has supplied the orphanage with a rototiller. A year later S.H.A.R.E. supplied plastic for a small greenhouse and paid to have the well cleaned and refurbished for irrigating the gardens. I have watched this turn into a very successful endeavor.
During my monitoring visits I met Sister Gloria who does the translating for me. We have become good friends over the years. She came to this community as a young nun from Connecticut 60 years ago. She has dedicated her whole life to helping these children in the orphanages in Cochabamba. She also introduced me to another orphanage with 175 children from birth to 6 years of age. After getting back home I told a group in our church about my experience. The group has been donating money on a regular basis to buy baby formula for the little ones ever since. Although this is not a project S.H.A.R.E. supports it shows how S.H.A.R.E. can open the door for other organizations to help.
I can’t put into words the feelings I get when they get to show me their gratitude. It is very humbling. Here I am getting all the thanks and accolades when really, I do very little. The same goes when I visit a village that received an irrigation system from S.H.A.R.E.. I am treated like royalty. They will cover me with confetti and serve a meal that is a feast fit for a king in their mud house with a dirt floor. These are truly humbling experiences. Some of the happiest people that I have ever met have nothing in the way of material things. These trips have enriched my life beyond measure.
Over the years I have experienced similar things many times. It is such a blessing to get to know people who are like Sister Gloria. I am forever grateful to all the S.H.A.R.E. donors who over the years have enabled me to serve this organization. I really wish every donor could have the experience of meeting the people on the receiving end just once. It has made such a difference in my life.