To the river San Pablo
'Poverty doesn't exist in the Netherlands.'
I think that with this blog I can bring down the ire of many Dutch people. The ever larger group of Dutch people who cannot make ends meet is growing. Still, I want to make a statement.
"There is no such thing as poverty in the Netherlands."
This statement can be qualified a bit. Sure, there is poverty in the Netherlands but that is by Dutch standards. If people have no food they can get food at the food bank. Clothes can be gotten at the clothing bank. Children who go to school without food sometimes get food at school or other places. There are homeless people who do not want to be helped. Other homeless people can go to the night shelter for €2.
I could list many more examples like that. My point is that in the Netherlands there is a solution for everything. If gas becomes too expensive we get €190 from the government. And so on and so forth.
I am currently with Father Roberto in Cerro Plata in the province of Veraguas in Panama. This is now the third time I have been with him. Now for 3 days. I arrived yesterday and after a brief greeting I was immediately put to work. He exploits my talents, namely taking photos and videos. It is not top quality for me, but I have to put aside my perfectionism and capture the unpredictable moment. In these moments, you meet Christ.
Yesterday we went to a remote location to complete some kind of aqueduct with pipes. I had no idea what was going to happen. I am visually inclined, but some things cannot be imagined. In the rush, I had forgotten to record background noise for the perfect video montage.This morning I was up at 6:30 to record the sound after all. Breakfast was at 8, so I had plenty of time to complete this. Even before breakfast I was given the task of photographing and filming the sick who come here for medical care. On an empty stomach, I immediately went to capture how the poor people (I'll come back to this later) receive basic care or are referred to a clinic.
Father Roberto gives away medicine for about $1,500 a month. He himself has to pay $600 a month for the vitamin for anti parasites and other medicines, the rest of the medicines are sponsored. There came a girl of 17 who has heavy bleeding during menstruation. Father Roberto looked into her eye and saw that her eye was extremely white. She has an iron deficiency there was referred to a gynecologist. Her mother also had an iron deficiency.
I had been touched by a 2-year-old girl while filming the "medical consultation"; she had gotten sick because of bad drinking water and got parasites in her body. I have seen several small children here in Panama and often they are shy. But this little girl was too sick to be shy. She looked at me. I tried to capture it. But the photo accompanying this post does not describe the emotion, which is missing from the photo. I struggled to contain my emotions. I told Father Roberto and he told me that there are often many more serious patients coming than today. Already I recognized Jesus in the girl. These are the moments Jesus present in people just as in the Holy Host.
So this was all on an empty stomach. After breakfast we went on a mission. We visited families who live somewhere in the mountains, and you can't understand why they live there and live at all. They live in a homemade shack, which is nothing more than a few poles and some corrugated metal sheets. The sun is blazing on them all day so it's bloody hot inside. Outside there is almost no shade. They have a little rice, some salt and (contaminated) water. They cook the meal with that. Often 1 meal a day.
The children here do not have such a fat belly as the children in Holland. Here they have a tight round belly that hangs down. It is not fat, but a water ball. This is typical hunger edema.
I saw children with constant hunger. I saw children drinking bad or contaminated water. Children who are naked. Children who are sick. Children without a father because he is in prison.
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you something to eat, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and come to visit you?’ And the King will answer, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brethren of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:37b-40)
As I said, not everyone will be happy in Holland with this message. But for those in the Netherlands who can correct me and have my horizons expanded, I am willing to publish a correction. Although I do not think it will happen soon because in our rich Netherlands there is no hunger and poverty as there is in other parts of the world.
Are you touched by this post and want to eat one less Big Mac or donate your Starbucks coffee? Then please transfer money to the Foundation Crusaders of Saint Jan on IBAN NL 72 INGB 0000 0236 53 in Noordwijkerhout with reference to Father Roberto. Every euro helps. This is often a cliché, but I can confirm this. For 5 dollars a large family can eat for a day.