Nourishment for the Fredericksburg Community LUCHA's Hunger Relief Ministry

By Caitlyn Furr

I have the privilege of interning with LUCHA ministries this summer through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) Student.Go program. After completing CBF’s orientation, I began interning with LUCHA at the beginning of June. I am a graduate student at Emory, seeking a Master’s of Divinity and a Master’s of Public Health. This internship at LUCHA provides me the opportunity to learn about ministry, community development and holistic health all at once. I can’t believe how much I have learned and experienced already!

On Mondays, I participate in LUCHA’s food ministry, which is operated by dedicated volunteers in the community. They arrive at the food bank in Fredericksburg on Monday mornings and spend at least an hour carefully selecting food items to purchase. Once they have selected and paid for the food by pound, they load about 5 shopping carts full of food into their own cars. They drive to Sylvania Heights Baptist Church, which has graciously allowed LUCHA to use its facilities, to sort the food. The volunteers create boxes of food, which include fresh produce, meat, packaged foods, hygiene products, and much more, for families in the community. The volunteers are well-acquainted with the families who will receive the food, so they personalize the boxes to ensure needs are met. For example, if a family has an infant, the volunteers will ensure that family’s box contains diapers. Finally, the volunteers hand deliver boxes to the families in the community. The entire process takes about 4 hours, but many of the same volunteers help every week. I am incredibly impressed with the compassion displayed by LUCHA’s volunteers, and the thoughtfulness they put in to each box they deliver. The program is effective in providing for needs in the community while also encouraging relationship building.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few weeks to meet various members of the Fredericksburg community who are served by LUCHA. It is clear that they trust and respect LUCHA and its programming. The needs within the community are many, but the community members feel connected to LUCHA and it gives them hope. LUCHA is a place where Latinos in Fredericksburg can turn when they need help, and it works to provide for their needs without judgment. LUCHA is a wonderful example of the love of Christ within the Fredericksburg community. I am grateful to be a part of it this summer, and continue to learn from this ministry.

Each year, the Cinco Panes (Five Loaves) food pantry serves approximately 1,200 persons in need.  Through the years, the ministry has evolved from a more traditional style pantry that provides boxes of groceries  to needy families to a more participatory model where the clients themselves have become the volunteers.  This new model has created a sense of community among many Latino immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t know each other.  The volunteers are Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and Baptist; Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan; young and not-so-young.  The ministry helps non/limited-English-speaking immigrants gain a greater sense of self worth as they work together for the greater good of the Latino community.  And it gives parents and youth the opportunity to work together.  During the past year, over 70 persons have served as volunteer.

Meet New Intern: Morgan

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LUCHA Ministries is a group that continues to amaze me with each day that I spend with

them. I started an internship with the ministry at the end of January and to this day I am still

learning more about their community involvement and how they help Latino Immigrants of

every age. LUCHA Ministries is dedicated to helping aid Latino Immigrants in almost every

way. Everyone that I have worked with so far has been so appreciative of the help that they

receive from LUCHA and even the little amount that I have been helping.

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After getting to know some of the students it is obvious that they highly value English.

They are learning English in school, where the emphasis is on using only English and no

Spanish, and they mainly speak Spanish at home with their family. When they find out that I

speak Spanish (and love it!) they are always surprised. I’ve been working with students in

kindergarten through their senior year in high school and have gotten the same shocked response

from all ages when they learn that I speak Spanish. One kindergartener had such a hard time

believing that I spoke Spanish and she responded with, “wow, you look like you speak English”.

 

I have made it one of my goals for this internship to teach them to value their Spanish because it

does hold such value and I hope that I can show them that it really is something cool.

 

Being in the Spanish major at the University of Mary Washington, I have met many

Latino college students that are in my Spanish classes and several of them have expressed that

they never learned to speak Spanish growing up. This created boundaries between them and

their families—specifically older generations because they never learned English. Reflecting

back on this loss of communication, they regret not focusing more on either retaining their

Spanish fluency or on never learning Spanish. Thinking about the huge divide that this creates

between families, I have made it one of my goals to demonstrate the importance to the students

that I work with to stay bilingual. I know that many of the students recognize the importance,

but I do not want them to become disillusioned and believe that their Spanish is not important or

not cool.

What are you doing after graduation? New intern: Ashleigh's story

What are you doing after graduation?

Before the end of my senior year in December, the question lurked behind every final exam and senior project. I’d checked off every box.

I was finished.

So how did I find myself 1200 miles and 20 hours away from everyone I love, sitting in the office of a dentist with a woman from El Salvador, trying to remember the Spanish word for gums? (It’s encias, if you’re wondering).

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This spring, I’ve packed up my tent and hiking boots and moved to Virginia for three months to be the Student.Go intern for LUCHA Ministries, Inc.

Why LUCHA? Why now?

After seeing the struggles of my undocumented friends in Texas, I knew I wanted to work with immigrants. My minor is Spanish; I’ve studied abroad in Central America and have great appreciation for Latino heritage and culture.

Who is LUCHA? What do they do?

LUCHA wears many hats in the community, but their primary purpose it to provide holistic care for Latino immigrants in Fredericksburg.

My jobs so far:

-helping a committed group of Latina volunteers unload and distribute food for families in crisis.

-teaching the only bilingual Girl Scout Troop in Virginia to dance the twist to the Beatles as they prepare for a presentation about England

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-teaching an ESL class at the local church for adults

-serving as a translator at the dentist

-increasing outreach and fundraising through social media and blogging

-brainstorming for the Community Give, a city-wide day of fundraising for Fredericksburg

-getting ready for the Advocacy Summit in D.C. where I’ll meet my representatives and learn about opportunities for reform

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-meeting the women of Project Adelante, a women’s empowerment group

 

We painted watercolors this week, are making soap next week, then on to computer certification, basic Spanish and English pronunciation.

 

Reasons I’m here

  • I needed something productive to do between finding a job and applying to grad school

 

  • I’ve seen the struggles of my undocumented friends in Texas. Many of them were kids who came to the U.S. when they were in elementary school and have been unable to receive citizenship ever since.They’re honor students who volunteer, help me when my car isn’t working, take care of their younger siblings. But they still can’t get a driver’s license, register to vote and live in fear of deportation.

 

  • I’m tired of hearing human beings (especially some of the nicest, most hospitable people you could ever meet) described as illegal and alien. No person is illegal.

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Actions are illegal. People are not. Calling someone this is just another way to dehumanize them. And when we use language to dehumanize others, we open ourselves up to all sorts of terrible historical realities like the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.

Although I once again find myself out of my cultural comfort zone, this is what I love to do, so I’m going to try new things until something works.

I’m excited for new opportunities and friendships, hiking along the Appalachian Trail, exploring D.C. and getting a little bit closer to figuring out my place in this thing called reality.

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama

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Ashleigh Bugg graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a degree in journalism and Spanish. She has worked with Student.Go in Fort Worth, Texas, Kosice, Slovakia and Fredericksburg, Virginia. She blogs about international issues and affordable travel at Travel Bugg.