I am visiting Fr. Roberto this week. I met him during the WYD in 2019. There are still many needs and it just takes a lot of money to help all the people. This 4th year of filming here in Cerro Plata and the surrounding area, I often see the same thing. A video from 2020, for example, is somewhat dated, but can still be put to good use.

I have been helping Fr. Roberto for about 5 years now. I often see people in the early morning coming to Fr. Roberto's house looking for help. It is often medical help, but there are also people who are hungry. They know there is help here. Father Roberto and his team not only help the people, who actually have nothing, but also teach them how to grow vegetables. For example, separating different types of crops and the timing of sowing is also important. In this way they help people become independent and less dependent on, for example, a food package.

After breakfast, we actually always go to the people. This seems like an easy home visit. You just go there by car. But nothing could be further from the truth. In the drive of half an hour to an hour you drive in the burning sun. The roads are just about impassable. They are not asphalt roads, but it is the hard ground here in Panama interspersed with stones. As a result, you get shoved in all directions. Quite a lot of g-forces go through you. Sometimes you drive straight toward the sky. Another moment you drive straight into the abyss towards a waterfall. So it is a kind of roller coaster. My watch thinks I am walking 100 stairs during such a ride.

Once I arrive at a community that's when the filming begins. (That, in fact, is the work I do for Fr. Roberto. Filming and video editing). In the heat with almost no shade I film. By now I have taught myself to throw water over my chest. And then by holding my phone against my body it cools down quickly and I can film some more. It's quite a challenge sometimes. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about whether there is enough light. I don't have to change anything in post-processing either. The colors are all very bright. That is, of course, because the sun is burning on you.

But what I keep seeing reflected in the communities I visit is that compared to me as a Westerner, they have nothing. The people often have worms or other infections. The food they prepare is very simple. A little bit of salty rice. Or a cup of coffee. But hygiene is non-existent here. The cycle of poverty repeats itself every generation. You would think, people are moving away from the jungle. But it is deeper. The people are happy. Well, they are sick sometimes. But yesterday I saw a girl who was sick and had a fever but she enjoyed coming here to the house and getting medical attention. It was a kind of outing.

Not only the poor people here but also the people in Sona are easily satisfied. The simplicity and happiness of the people is not linked to the Western thinking mentality. It is a simplicity that consists of a circle of love, faith and neighbor. The people do not lock themselves behind a fence or listen to music in their earbuds while doing their shopping at the self-serve checkout. No the people here are open, cordial and full of love.

You could say as a negative that Panamanians are always late and don't keep appointments. But then you don't know the other side of the story. People are often late because they are always talking. They often do leave on time. At least that's the intention. But just spend 10 minutes paying attention to one person. Then spend half an hour talking to the next person. And that's how they end up being late. But this is completely ingrained in life and culture. There are also all kinds of vicissitudes here in Cerro Plata that you just can't take into account. This morning, for example, I was told. After breakfast you go with that car. I go to the bathroom and I come back and the car is gone. Something came up, so I went with another car. So if you're not flexible I don't recommend going to Panama. And if you do want to go, you learn very quickly here to be flexible.

An example of flexibility is the problem with electricity. It often goes out. Sometimes for several hours. I'm editing videos and then some power comes in handy. Fortunately, there are solar panels here. But yes, one half of the day there is sun. The other half there isn't. That's what you get when you're around the equator. The sun is so powerful that in 1 hour I just draw 100 watts from the solar panels to charge my battery.

There is a lot of poverty here. In Holland you don't see children with fat bellies who have hunger edema. A lot of help is needed and every possible help is offered. But the people are not angry, sad or disappointed. No they are grateful and do not take the help for granted. But it is a gift from God. I have really experienced this in this way. You see here in the sick people Jesus who needs help. It is a grace to be able to be here and work. I have also seen off-camera that people are joyful. It is a joy that is much deeper than being joyful. It is a culture of charity and faith which brings people closer to God despite their daily problems. Therefore, this is a kind of foreshadowing of the poor beggar Lazarus who was seen as scum and ignored during his life. But the people look forward to the womb of Abraham. They look forward to heaven. This kind of faith goes much deeper than our faith in Europe. If we feel like having a pizza, we order one. Here in Panama, God is asked if it is His will, He will provide. This is just one example. But faith is in everything. For example, making a sign of the cross before going to work, swimming or playing soccer. But also praying at the beginning of the bus trip so that you have a safe bus trip.

So you could say this is heaven on earth. The suffering, the poverty, the sickness is something of us purified and later in heaven the wages will be paid in the lap of Abraham. Money does not make happiness. Love does.

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