A Spice of Solidarity

Carla E. Aguilar is a CRS staff member based in San Antonio, TX. She accompanied a group of 12 to Ghana and Burkina Faso on the first ever Hispanic Ministry leadership delegation immersion trip. You can read yesterday’s post here.

I follow Katinga into her home. I’ve never seen her before in my life, but her face looks familiar. She reminds me of my grandma.

Katinga is a member of a Saving and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) called “Dikidini,” which means “Let’s try and see.” SILC groups are supported by CRS throughout Africa. Villagers are encouraged to set aside amounts of money which are loaned out to other members of the community with interest.

Burkina Faso

Carla Aguilar. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

With her savings Katinga has been able to earn enough to purchase a pot with bright flowers on it, which helps her out in the market. Her job is to harvest peanuts and to make shea butter. She lives in a small home and shares the space (the size of my walk-in closet) with seven other family members. There is no running water or electricity in her home and there are a swarm of flies everywhere.

Two other delegates accompany me to into her home and we ask her questions in English, which are then translated to French by a CRS staff person and then asked in Kassena, the local language.

I ask Katinga why she decided to join the SILC group. She says, “I wanted to be an example for my family- you can’t just sit around.”

Those words sounded like my grandma’s wisdom so, I decide to tell the translator to tell Katinga that she reminded me of my grandma.

Katinga is delighted to hear this news and she flashes me a warm smile and gets up to look for something. She returns with a bowl made from a calabash gourd with a ball of black smelly spice.

She offers the bowl and the spice to me as a gift and says, “I give this to you, my daughter, so you can season your food.”

This moment moves me. At first I feel guilty that she is offering so much, especially since she had just told us that she did not have enough money to send her eldest children to school, but then I am humbled by her generosity.

I have read and studied Catholic Social Teaching and the concept of solidarity, but today, Katinga showed me what it really means. She called me a daughter because she understands that we all belong to each other.

Katinga and I will probably never see each other again, but her spirit will be very much alive in my heart.

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