April 11th: Day 4. Come together.
The next day, Sunday, greeted us more pleasantly. There was still a significant amount of ashfall, but the night passed more peacefully than the one before it. I had made plans early with my cousin and her husband again to make another trip to the shelter to lend another hand. The plan was to meet up at their church where other members were already gathered and then we would mobilize from there. When we got to the church, I saw groups of people, mainly women, sorting and packing clothes. By the looks of it the plan was to make a clothing donation and so they raided the church’s thrift store to pull out the best they had. The church van was giving some trouble but it seemed they were successfully getting to the bottom of it. In any case we had to make alternate transport arrangements, but that didn’t seem to be a problem, fortunately.
After a very theologically sound conversation with the pastor I rejoined with the rest of the group where we planned out the day’s activities. My cousin suggested that since there was a cluster of shelters in the area that we split up the man-power and donations to lend as much assistance as we could. We had absolutely no objections about that. We loaded the vehicles after talking through what the individual destinations were and then we were off.
In about ten minutes we were on location. Ash was blowing all over the capital. There was this smooth fluidity in the way that it moved that made regular old dust seem like it came from a less developed neighbourhood. At every turn there was this interesting blend of beauty amidst the disaster. I wasn’t there to admire the potentially life ruining ash though so I lended a hand to off load the donations. The first task was to sort the clothes out according to size, gender and make. Before too long however, we had a crowd. It took no time for word to get around that some new digs had touched down on the premises and there was a first-come-first-serve vibe in the air. Within minutes it turned into a boutique on a busy day. We were shuffling through clothing, hurling questions past each other trying to fulfil the requests of our fellow displaced Vincentians.
Unfortunately, it was slowly getting out of control.
We were happy to serve, but this crowd was a picky one. We put back more clothes than we gave out. We didn’t even have to wait for verbal responses at this point. Their faces said it all. It was clear everyone who came wanted to be as fashionable as possible. Thankfully, the shelter manager came and restored order. We laughed it off and sighed in relief. The rest of the day at the shelter consisted of some heavy lifting as donations poured in that day. A stark contrast from the last time we were there but it was a welcomed progress. The shelter was clearly in good hands. We were offered lunch that day, which came as a pleasant surprise, not because we thought they couldn’t provide, but because we weren’t looking for it. We were honoured to accept and passed the time sharing stories and experiences.
Shortly after, we wrapped up, said our goodbyes and organized to get everyone home safely. I felt twice as tired because of the face masks. I got cleaned up then settled in. Social media was buzzing with news. From persons who remained in the red zone, to dare devils who actually hiked the active volcano. There was much talk of repentance and the end of days which is synonymous with every disaster that unfortunately comes our way. There were also stories of acts of selflessness and love. All in all it was a full day.