By Damaris Bravo, Guest Writer
While working at Food for the Hungry (FH), I’ve discovered that when it comes to the humanity in each of us — there is a common thread that unites us. But I had to travel halfway around the world to learn this.
I began working at FH two years ago as the Internal Communications Manager. Before this, I served for two years in the Peace Corps in Guyana in South America. It was an incredible experience, the best and most challenging of my life. I learned a lot about working alongside people in a culture much different than my own, built relationships with people, and established deep connections.
I knew I would always carry this experience with me wherever I went. What I didn’t know was how different my next international experience would be.
Cyclones Devastate Communities
Earlier this year, in March and April, two cyclones made landfall in Mozambique. The cyclones brought torrential rains and flooded entire communities. They claimed the lives of many. There was severe widespread damage, including the loss of homes, electricity, clean water, crops, and more. The aftermath left millions displaced from their homes and in need of assistance.
FH’s emergency response team quickly sprang into action and began responding to the needs of all those impacted by the cyclones. Alongside partners, we were able to provide emergency food and access to clean water.
As part of the recovery process, I traveled to and lived in Mozambique for two months to work as a disaster response assistant. This included working on grant proposals, attending meetings, writing stories, gathering resources for donor reports, and assisting the resource development manager.
Traveling to a Post-Disaster Site
I was very nervous to go to Mozambique. Not because of the post-disaster recovery situation I was heading into, but nervous about my skill set. I wanted to be as helpful as possible to the team and provide them with what they needed. I hoped I could do that.
My fears subsided the moment I arrived. I found both the local FH staff members and the Mozambicans in the communities to be incredibly warm, generous, and caring. They were grateful for my presence and contributions, no matter how big or small. Despite the devastation they had just gone through, I experienced so many beautiful moments of normal day-to-day life being lived. Yes, they were recovering, rebuilding, and healing from the widespread destruction, but they were also forging ahead. They had a “life goes on” attitude that I’ll never forget. They were embracing the humanity in the situation and in each other.
Moments of Connection
There are so many moments I am grateful for where I experienced the humanity and goodness in the people I met. In one community, I and other FH staff members were greeted with a traditional song and dance by the community members. I was humbled and honored by their performance. In another community, I interviewed a man who had received seeds from FH after the cyclones hit to help him rebuild his garden. It was incredible to see the progress of his garden and to hear how happy he was to have food to feed his family. After interviewing him, he wouldn’t let me leave without gifting me fresh produce from his garden. Here was a man who had just lost everything, yet he had no short supply of gratitude or generosity.
Another moment I will never forget was when I was taking photos of people in the resettlement sites. I asked a woman if it was okay for me to take her photo. She immediately said yes. But first she pulled out a mirror to fix her hair and adjust her wrap. I smiled inside because it reminded me of myself and my friends back home anytime we get ready to smile for the camera. It was a small glimpse of a normal moment in a place that had just suffered extreme devastation. I found these moments of common humanity so comforting. Because although thousands of miles separate us, I suddenly felt closer to the people FH serves more than ever.
And for this common thread — I will always be grateful.
Damaris is a second-year student in the MGM program. This article originally appeared on the Food for the Hungry website.