The volunteer who came to supervise the feeding of many children…
The first thing I noticed about Carlos Suarez when we first met in the Dominican Republic less than a month ago, was his height.
Standing past 6″ it would be easy to feel intimidated judging by his stature alone, had I not already communicated with him through emails. Each message confirmed a friendliness about him, always signing off with “be happy my friend!” This is not the type of person to feel intimidated by! So when I met Carlos that hot afternoon in Gazcue, Santo Domingo, as soon as he opened his mouth and kind words flowed out laced with his soft Mexican accent, I warmed towards him immediately. I joined Carlos for lunch at Ananda vegetarian restaurant to discuss my volunteer role at the Sathya Sai centre in Haiti.
It wouldn’t be long before I discover traits of Carlos Suarez that make him an ideal humanitarian: kind-hearted, softly spoken, generous and dutiful (and an ability to add a sprinkling of humour to any situation!) If I didn’t already know he was a Sai Baba follower, his actions spoke louder than words. I was intrigued to know more about the teachings of Sai Baba. Himself who was a humanitarian, encouraging love, peace and unity as well as respect for all religions. My opportunity for discovery started when I arrived in Haiti…
When I told my New-York-born Haitian friend Guylene that I was considering to volunteer in her country of origin this summer, she immediately recommended I contact her friend Carlos. We were introduced informally via Facebook and kept in touch weeks before I would know my exact plans of coming Haiti. Carlos was my first introduction to to Sathya Sai Baba, in a spiritual sense. Before he sent he the videos about the organisation, I admit, I didn’t know who Sai Baba was. I had heard of his name, but whether he was a religion, a cult, an organisation? I wasn’t sure.
And despite this unsurity not once was I asked if I was a Sai Baba follower.
Not once was I asked to write a formal letter stating why I wanted to help.
And not once was I asked for a penny to volunteer at the centre, as many organisations demand.
My eagerness and willingness to help was enough (and I’m sure having the reference of a mutual friend helped) and for that I am grateful for this unique opportunity. It is ironic that I came to help children, but I also opened my mind to the teachings of love and service, prayer and worship which would help myself, thanks to Carlos Suarez and his fellow coordinator Shanti Paudel. The two individuals, on surface, couldn’t be more different. But like ying and yang they are a complete package! Their personalities go side by side as do their work ethics and energy. It has been a pleasure to be in the presence of these two extraordinary men.
Carlos was kind enough to share with me his story during our various conversations. It is a truly inspirational one. Taking on such responsibility despite the language and cultural barriers. As supervisor of the feeding program his role is to foresee everything that goes into providing 2000 meals a day (except rest day sunday) for children living in various camps across Port-au-Prince. This service guarantees a child at least one nutritious meal for the day.
I witnessed the living conditions of the camp sites personally. These children literally have nothing. The limelight of the devastating hurricane which brought plentiful aid has faded. The media have turned away their cameras and the children are no doubt reluctant to smile for any camera which promises them nothing…
But seeing their faces light up as they spotted the Sathya Sai Baba vehicle was priceless. Their excitement expressed in seeing Shanti ‘Paudel’, who played a key role in sourcing accommodation for many of these children’s families when they were left homeless after the hurricane of 2010. They chanted;
It took me a while to realise that it was Shanti they were calling! I captured pictures of their faces as they ran to greet Carlos while we drove up in the car. When I look back at the images I captured, I understand why Carlos gains so much satisfaction from his work. It would be a loss if the smiles were wiped from these children’s faces.
When Carlos embarked on this voluntary mission, leaving the tranquil settings of his home in Cancun Mexico, for the poverty-struck environment of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, he expected to stay for just a month or so. A year and nine months later, he is still here carrying on his dutiful mission. It has been a pleasure to listen to Carlos speak about his love for the children, “my children” he often refers to them as.
And I don’t doubt that each one has a special place in his big heart… All 2000 of them!
For more on Carlos Antonio Suárez Pérez, visit: http://sailoveinaction.org/project/haitiCarlos
Also see the videos of the feeding program produced by Shanti Paudel
“Narayana Seva Haiti Carlos Charley”
Tropical Storm ISAAC Sai Service Narayana Seva Haiti
The Sathya Sai World Foundation Haiti plans to continue the feeding program until the end of 2013. After which, it is unsure how these children who rely solely on one meal a day, will survive.
If you would be interested in helping in some way, please contact the coordinators directly firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Sathya Sai Organisation.
- Finding myself here… Sathya Sai Centre, Haiti (travelmakerkai.com)
- From the Sathya Sai (World Foundation) Centre Haiti… Bless the food (travelmakerkai.com)
- My Interest (ravinraj95.wordpress.com)
- Hop on board!.. Join me on my journey in Haiti! (travelmakerkai.com)