They are still fresh on my retina and above all in my heart, faces, landscapes, lives .... Eleven hours by plane separate Central America from Madrid, a distance that seems very large and at the same time very small. Very big because they seem to be completely different worlds, very small because life is not so different, because our interests and our desires to make life more dignified, more human, are present here and there. Very small because I have been able to feel like a sister in the Carmelite Missionary communities that I have visited, that have welcomed me.

I have visited projects in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Each of them has a community of Carmelite Missionary Sisters behind it, a sister; the mission is always personal and communitarian.

The mission of Guatemala is varied and very personal. Dealing with families and individuals on a one-to-one basis. The centre of Jalapa is only a ten-minute walk away. But not all the hamlets are within such a short distance and their inhabitants have to walk for hours or, if they are lucky, they can take the bus that runs once a day and returns them to their homes at the end of the journey.

The clinic is located in our centre and is eager to grow. It offers a variety of specialities depending on the day and travels to the most distant places on what are called "health days".

In the background, the computer classroom, which has already produced several graduates of computer technicians, and the SUM (Salón de Usos Múltiples), which can be used for a large training campaign, a youth meeting or a Eucharist.

On the right is the "Casa de los Voluntarios" which is occupied by doctors, young people, volunteers from the country and abroad, who come to lend a hand or two.

And now, in the background, we find the "kingdom of Sr. Isabel", which aspires to be, with all honours, a training centre, where the first steps in the knowledge of the country's laying hens and the most varied crops are taken.

And there is no lack of catechetical activity, youth ministry... there is room for everything and the community of five sisters multiplies and becomes more flexible as the occasion demands.

At Nicaragua form the three sisters community. The school has about 1300 pupils from the age of three up to the university entrance. Everything on one level is spread out over the sisters' large grounds. Everything is used and everything is recycled. There are many "leaks" and not only those in the roof, which are considerable; the small works are being done little by little, as the money and the help of the families in the form of "labour" comes in; the big ones, they hope to be able to fulfil their dreams. Many students study on scholarships. They and their families undertake to help with the upkeep and improvement of the facilities on Saturdays, so that the laughter and joy of the children and youngsters resound under the trees every day of the week, except for Sundays.

El Salvador It's another world. Already the airport itself, larger and more confluent, makes you notice the change of country. In El Salvador we have three communities: Prados de Venecia (the closest to the airport), Plan del Pino and La Laguna.

In the first, a large Carmelite institution, we find the polyclinic which attends to almost all specialities from Monday to Saturday mornings. By the way, how long the mornings are in Central America. The sun rises early and with it, we all get up early. A school with more or less the same number of students as in Nicaragua and a House of Spirituality which these days welcomed half of the Province who were making the Exercises with Sister Paloma Marchesi.

In the school and for the whole school, work begins by thanking God for the new day and this prayer, every morning, is greeted with Father Palau's hymn. Father Palau and Sister Juana Gracias are very present in the life of the school.

together with the daily consecration to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. These are not our classroom ratios. An average of 45-50 students in each of them. They say "OHHH" when they introduce me as coming from Spain. Even the little ones know that it is in Europe and that it is very far away, there are many children who have at least one relative here and one of them was born in Spain, in a small village in Toledo.

Plan del Pino welcomed the formandas in the past. Today it has a community of four sisters who work in different educational and parish missions. This area is particularly affected by gangs.

And we still have the Laguna where we have several projects, all of them starting with the clinic that serves the area every morning from Monday to Saturday in the different specialities, which has been extended throughout the Chalatenango region with the latest project of cytology for women and the eradication of parasites in children. The food is not varied and this causes the children to have problems of development and growth. The sisters and the staff of the clinic have worked hard to reach areas where no one else reaches, and by the way I am not surprised because it is very difficult to reach, thanks to Merardo (the four by four) and the driving skills of Sister Ligia, we are able to reach places where it would seem impossible to reach. How good and grateful all these people are! And what a landscape! You don't get tired and you don't know where to look, but that beauty that invites you to contemplate, to raise your eyes, to find no limits, in the step by step reveals itself to be hard, almost impracticable for strangers, and without secrets for those who walk every day to go to school, to work in their fields, to sell at the market, to attend mass when they are lucky enough to have it, which is rather, from evening to evening. They walk, walk, walk....

There are also great projects in La Laguna for the coffee plantation, a day-to-day second-hand clothes sales, the school for children with different disabilities,...

I leave Central America with the door open to the project of a daily family doctor in the Guatemala Clinic, with the dream of building six classrooms for children in Nicaragua, with the possibility of continuing the campaigns in El Salvador and so many other dreams of struggle and hope.

This morning I received this quote from Saint John Paul II which, if I look for it, I cannot find one that expresses and sums up my feelings better.

SOLIDARITY IS NOT A SUPERFICIAL FEELING, IT IS THE FIRM AND PERSEVERING DETERMINATION TO WORK FOR THE COMMON GOOD, I.E. THE GOOD OF EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US, SO THAT WE ARE ALL TRULY RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER.

May we never tire of fighting for the sake of all with everyone, because there is nothing better than to be all builders of a better and fairer world.

Thank you family here and there because all We are needed and this is no time for shirking.

Victoria (Charo) Alonso

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