My experience in Spain has been like no other; unlike the rest of the students here on this Spain trip, I’m taking an alternative course. Instead of taking classes, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work at the local food pantry. Over the past two weeks I have been able to use the Spanish I’ve learned and help the people of Spain with something that plagues the whole world.
Not only have I been able to learn the history, cultural parts and language of Spain but I’ve been able to see the behind the scenes that most tourist don’t. While Spain is a wonderful country and I recommend everyone to visit, it still has its problems like any place in the world. You see they’re challenged with a high unemployment rate. This means there are many people who can’t afford a house, running water, or even a decent meal. People can often be found sleeping on the streets, going up to strangers with cups or hats and asking for money, or with signs that explain their situation. Thankfully there are some organizations set up to provide people with food. For me it meant that there was a way for me to give back to this beautiful city and learn the language in a different way.
Every day at the food pantry is a busy day for us. Some Days we’re cooking chicken with rice and vegetables, other days we’re handing out nonperishable foods. However, on most days we provide two types of sandwiches along with a liter of milk along with bread. The bread is donated from local bakeries that we pick up that night before or the morning of. It is a nice show of compassion that these local bakeries donate their bread instead of just selling it at a lower price until it is finally too stale to be edible. It shows that there is a strong sense of responsibility in the community to help those less fortunate than themselves. This is something that back in the United States that gets glossed over unless there are organizations that reach out to the public for support, but even then it can often go unnoticed or unheard. All it takes is one group of people to start standing up, and to never back down and make a difference in the lives of those struggling.
When at the pantry, and whenever someone finds themselves working with food, preparation is key. On days where we’re giving out nonperishable food we have to first pull all that we need from storage. The way the food pantry is set up however is scattered across 5 different buildings along the street. The main building is where we do most of the cooking, assembling, and distribution of food. The other 4 buildings are mostly for storage of clothes and various foods such as canned beans, crackers, rice, potatoes, onions etc. This means that to prepare for the days when we distribute food, we have to go to 4 different building to gather all the food we need. Thankfully they have a shopping cart which makes preparation go by a lot faster.
When it comes to actually cooking, a gentleman by the name of Jose takes care of most of it. Most of the people don’t speak English so understanding them was a challenge for me at times. It usually takes them a few times of repeating themselves to understand them. However, everyone has been extremely understanding and supportive of the fact that I was completely new to the language and many even would take time out of their day to try and teach me a word or phrase or two. It was incredibly inspiring to see how compassionate and selfless these people were.
Everyone at the food pantry has a role to play and everyone one plays it very well. Along with that they’ve taken many dull moments and turned them into teaching experiences and everlasting memories.