We couldn’t do what we do without the mothers in the communities that we support. Each of Feed the Hungry’s 36 school kitchens has a dedicated group of volunteers that help sustain our programs. They attend our cooking classes and nutrition workshops and do the cooking, serving, and clean up for the thousands of hot meals we typically provide every school day. They also inventory ingredients and supplies, manage schedules, and keep the communication flowing with the other volunteers and with our chefs and nutritionists.
During the pandemic, they are still playing a crucial role. Although the hot meals program is suspended until schools reopen, these moms provide invaluable support in organizing the efficient and speedy delivery of the food bags FTH is now providing to as many as 20,000 residents in need.
Meet Doña Mari
Maria del Carmen Duran Palma is one of those special moms who helps us help her community.
Maria and her family had been living in the nearby city of Celaya, where their neighborhood had become terrorized by crime and violence. In order to escape the dismal situation and for the sake of the family’s safety, she and her husband decided to move to her husband’s native village of San Cristobal, where they have since found peace and tranquility in this poor rural village. San Cristobal, population 211, is located 12 km from San Miguel de Allende.
She is a mother of seven children. Her two daughters are in high school; one just graduated, but because of the pandemic and lack of resources, her dream of going to university to study forensic medicine has halted. Two of her boys attend junior high and the youngest one attends elementary school in the community. Her two older sons live in Celaya. Mari reached a junior high education level in Celaya and has made school a priority for her children.
After moving there in 2014, Maria quickly became a leader in the community and started volunteering at the school where her children were receiving the lunches offered by Feed the Hungry. Not only a beneficiary, but also a volunteer, Doña Mari, as we came to know her, has the leadership and management skills to organize the community so that when we arrive with the Feed the Families Emergency Response food deliveries, the beneficiaries are lined up and ready to receive their supplies.
Here is a short interview with Doña Mari, translated from Spanish:
What motivated you to begin volunteering at the Feed the Hungry kitchen?
I was moved by the interest you give to the children at the school. The benefit goes directly to the children, not some committee or a select few. It goes to everyone at the school. The food served is nutritious and we learn so much from the nutritional workshops. I had to do something to show gratitude and I was glad the program allowed for moms to volunteer.
What is the most memorable achievement of your volunteer experience?
Seeing the happiness and joy of each person when they receive your help.
What makes this volunteer experience a meaningful use of your time?
The feeling of being useful to my community. A person must always remember that to live is to serve. Even if I was not a beneficiary, I would still volunteer my time to organize the lists and line up the people with proper distancing and make sure everyone is wearing a mask when you come to give us the food bags. This is who I am. I like to feel helpful.
What other type of volunteer work have you or are you participating in?
I have been the head of the PTA at the school. I also assist the town delegate in anything that she needs as long as it is good for the community. I am also a catechist, preaching the word of the Lord to 5-year-old–children in our community.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am very grateful to Feed the Hungry. We are 60 families here who truly need help. You give us what is fair, enough to sustain our families. I feel you take us into account, you listen to us, help us with the elderly who were not part of the school program but you allowed us to add them to the food bag distribution. We just don’t know how to thank you!
Doña Mari continues to help us with the distribution of food bags in San Cristobal.
Feed the Hungry offers several ways to volunteer. The most commonly known and available to our general public is the volunteer drivers and packers that we usually rely on for our regular school meals program. In addition, Feed the Hungry offers a volunteer experience for the moms of the students at each of the communities served. To learn more about volunteering for Feed the Hungry, please email JStratton@feedthehungrysma.org.