Volunteer Stories - Ellie Stonecash

"PEOPLE.  They really are the biggest reason for making any one particular place in the world a special place to be."

PEOPLE. They really are the biggest reason for making any one particular place in the world a special place to be. How infinite is our world? How vast is our country? God planned our lifespan just right- we could never grow bored of exploring new places or tire of meeting new people. There would never be enough time to see every place or meet every person. It hasn’t taken me long to find what makes the people of Chaparral, New Mexico so unique.  

Sometimes they ask me jokingly, “You wanted to volunteer for a whole year, and you come to Chapa?! Why did you choose to come here?!” The question is intended to be rhetorical, but in my mind, I formulate a seemingly simple answer- the people.

It is in part due to the world the Sisters of the Assumption have opened for me. They shower their people with immeasurable love 24/7. No two of the sisters are the same. Diverse in so many ways, sharing almost nothing in common. Nothing but the vital key to their success. This key is what brought them together, it is what unifies them in their mission and work. The key is their great love for the people in this corner of the world. They are pillars of strength in this community, pillars of love, pillars of hope built on the foundation of Christ’s love and model of service. These women talk the talk and walk the walk every moment. It goes without saying that I am learning from them every day, not to mention their uncanny ability to make me laugh.

Almost every day here in Chaparral I am put in an educational setting in which I am to be providing the information. Yet every day, I find myself to be more a receiver of the education, rather than the giver. Acquiring new Spanish words is a constant, but I also learn why the people here are a people of great strength. For example, I learn of strong, innocent children who are being forced to grow up too fast (without their parents), while simultaneously being robbed of something we can never return to them: their childhood. Amidst the separated families (due to a border between two neighboring nations), and the financial burdens that our people bare, the sisters help me find little pieces of wonderful every day:

Maybe I see it in the strength and determination of an 18-year-old girl. She cares and cooks for her five younger siblings, and is trying to get through her senior year of high school. Her parents were deported in a raid last year.  

Perhaps I find it in an adolescent boy planting a kiss on his father’s forehead, just because he loves him that much. Not because he has been away, or has reconciled with him after an argument. Just because he loves him.  My heart melts at the affection children show for their parents and their siblings.

I see it in the smile of 7th grade girl who, unlike her classmates, knows only a few English words. Nevertheless, she still laughs with me at my poor Spanish skills, smiles and says, “Goodbye!” at the end of every class period.

Maybe I see it in the love of a single mother who works crazy hours to feed her family of nine. Above the door of her trailer, two signs read, “Vayas con Dios”…“Go with God” and another, “Prayer changes things.” Once again, I am reminded of their immense faith.

Or I find it in an 11-year-old girl’s dream for her family. “I dream that one day we’ll all be together.”

I witness so much love here in this little border town. I am constantly learning. I am trying out my Spanish. I am witnessing the beautiful mixture of two great countries, two rich cultures. I amuse myself at attempting to continue the construction of such a strong foundation. This foundation of greatness that previous AMAs have built here with these special people, before I ever knew what or who an AMA was. All the while, I’ll be enjoying the un-shy sun of the southwest, and the beautiful mountains God planted outside my bedroom window.                                                   

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Volunteer Stories and Reflections:

Chaparral, New Mexico
Ellie Stonecash, 2008-09
Kristen Penkala, 2007-08
Andrea de Castro, 2006-07
Maggie McCormick, 2005-06

Worcester, MA
Liz Supple, 2011-12
Pierre Tardivo, 2007-08
Liz Clayton, 2006-07

Mexico City, Mexico
Brendan Carey, 2009-2010

Newcastle, England
Kathleen Gardner, 2011-12
Rebecca Ickes, 2009-10