Lunch is the busiest time of the day at Fabretto’s education center in Cusmapa. The children in the morning shift of the center’s education programs end the morning with a hearty meal, while almost simultaneously, the afternoon shift arrives to start the afternoon with a full belly. For many of these children, this is their only meal of the day.
Long before the children start to line up outside the kitchen, three women arrive at the center to start preparing the meals. Although the morning shift starts at 8 for the children, these women have been here since 6 am. The kitchen is filled with the sound of chopping and friendly chatter and the scent of freshly-cooked food. Geovanina, who is technically in charge, prepares the chicken. She does not even need to give out orders, as Araceli or “Chela” quickly starts chopping the veggies while Julia prepares the large pots before cooking the chicken and rice. Clearly, this kitchen works like a well-oiled machine.
Chela started volunteering here 6 years ago when a friend invited her to volunteer with her. She has two children who benefit from Fabretto’s educational enrichment program at the center. She likes volunteering here because she enjoys the joyful atmosphere and sisterhood that has naturally developed from working as a team every day. “Do you think I’d still be here if I didn’t enjoy the work?”, Chela says, laughing.
Julia’s children are now grown up, but they were once beneficiaries of Fabretto’s education programs at this center. She has a long-standing connection to Fabretto because she knew Padre Fabretto during his lifetime. “I am eternally grateful to him because he gave me the plot of land on which I built my home.” She has been volunteering for the past two years because it keeps her busy and she enjoys learning new recipes from Geovanina. Julia does not earn a steady income, so to thank her for her volunteer work, the center provides her with a basket of food every week.
As 10 am approaches, the pace starts to pick up. The children, they tell us, will soon start banging their spoons against the shut doors of the kitchen. The children are hungry but luckily, a hot meal awaits for them as the three women start to stack the plates on the counter.
The children arrive with their teacher, first passing through the hand-washing station, then impatiently waiting by the kitchen to be handed a plate. Today’s lunch is their favorite meal on the menu: chicken and veggies with rice and beans. What they don’t know, is just how many veggies are actually in the sauce. The clever women have blended the veggies so finely, they are completely unrecognizable. The children are happily eating the onions and peppers they are so used to discarding, because what child is born liking veggies?
The last meal is served at around 1 pm. After cleaning up and eating lunch themselves, Geovanina, Chela, and Julia finally leave at 2 pm. They are exhausted from a long day, but “the hard work is worth it to see the smiling faces of the children waiting for their meal,” Geovanina tells us. Tomorrow is a new day and we can expect these heroines without capes to be back here at 6 am.
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