Life as an AMA Volunteer in Chaparral, NM



Life in Chaparral

I cannot believe that it has been 1 month since I arrived from El Paso Airport to start my first year of service with the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption. Being 2,411 miles away from home has been bittersweet for me knowing I will leave a part of heart in Massachusetts. I am very happy to know that I will always have my loving family and friends supporting through everything especially with my decision to serve others as an AMA volunteer for two years. I will be starting my first year here (2013-2014) in Chaparral, New Mexico and finally ending my second year (2014-2015) in the Philippines. I am truly blessed and thankful to God that I will be starting a new chapter in my life dedicating much of my time and effort helping the communities in my mission sites as well as making a difference in the lives of the others I will be lending my service to. I look forward to learning more of the pressing issues from immigration to religious piety as well as education to poverty. Life is full of challenges and I know that my years of service will not always go smoothly or the way I want it to be, but I know I will learn and embrace the problems and mistakes that I may encounter along the way. Hopefully after my 2 years of service, I have grown more closer to God and have become more stronger and wiser. 

What to expect on my blog? Touching on various topics: immigration, food, religious life, volunteer lifestyle, etc. 

My 1 Month Overview in Chaparral, NM

Did I really move out West?!?! Am I really living in the state of known as the “Land of the Enchantment?” As I am typing up this blog, I see a whole different world where mobile and trailer homes can be found on every block here in Chaparral, NM and not to mention several desert plants such as the cactus that are able to tolerate the oppressive heat of the sun. Apart from seeing families who are struggling to make a living, but the main topic in this colonia is immigration.

(NOTE) On this blog, I will not disclose the names and pictures (unless with permission) of the people I have grown close to within my year here for privacy, security, and especially immigration reasons.

As now I reach October and it has been close to a month and 1 week of being in a new environment, I have pretty much settled here. I am gradually getting to know the area and where I can buy my groceries and other necessary items. Unfortunately, Chaparral doesn’t have everything and so Teresa (my fellow AMA volunteer) and I must drive 30-40mins to El Paso, Texas to shop at COSTCO and other known stores that we are familiar with which is a hassle but it’s good to know we have several grocery and convenient stores around. Thinking about this, I am actually proud that I am becoming a better and smarter shopper. By the end of this year, I am hoping I come back to Massachusetts a better cook as well.

Cooking and baking has always been favorite hobby of mine. I am quite a Foodie! I love trying out new foods as well experimenting/creating fresh, new appetizing meals. Suffering from an autoimmune disorder, I have come to terms with it even though I am limited to certain things I can’t eat. But I will not let this disorder stop me. I have alternatives and even so I can learn to make meals I know I will like. Being with my roommate Teresa has been great. I appreciate how much she pays more attention to the Ingredient labels in the back of each product and finding out that some of additives/preservatives names which are hard to pronounce are not good to consume. While watching Food Inc. with her, I remember watching SuperSize Me in high school and just knowing the truth of what these fast food chains put in our burgers and chicken nuggets can affect how we go about our lifestyle and overall health. Literally, I am becoming more self-conscious of what I eat now than I did before. It’s crazy. This topic on Food will be continued within the year.On the Border

So what do I actually do here in Chaparral as a volunteer? Well currently, I am working as a tutor or teaching assistant at the Chaparral High School and Desert Trail Elementary School. Teresa and I have been working with the schools for about two weeks now which getting to it was slow (background check delay) but are now glad to spend much of our time helping the students who are struggling especially ESL classes. Within my first few weeks here in Chaparral, I was able to tutor a student in college who has been waiting to get his license for two years due to legal documents but at the end of it all, through practice tests and finding his testing methods he passed his written exam test ( he already took his road test) and now has his license. While getting to know him within our scheduled meetings, he eventually opened up about having Test Anxiety which I, myself have encountered it in high school and college. Overall, I was happy to see to progress he has made and knowing that I was successful to help my first student. As a lay missionary volunteer, I am also involved in helping the students learn more about their Catholic faith such as being a leader in the English speaking youth group, becoming a Eucharistic minister, and joining to church choir. On top of that, the Sisters of the Assumption who are our RA’s and spiritual leaders, have introduced to me and Teresa several prayers, retreats, and spiritual reflections that play a role in our service. As a Catholic, I have always tried to be involved with the church and the ministry but knowing myself full well I feel that I have not gone fully in touch with my spirituality. At times I feel that I have not done enough to be a “Good Catholic” and I guess what I want by the end of this is to find myself and God in the desert. To find a piece of me that has been missing.

Back to my work as volunteer, I am hoping to also work with several organizations here in Chaparral, NM and El Paso, Texas that is geared towards immigration, domestic violence, and trafficked persons. I would love to learn more about the social working aspect and hone in a new skill in counseling and immigration advocacy. 

So far, I am happy here and could not be more happier to spend my year here in New Mexico learning the Mexican culture, meeting new people along the way, as well as getting to know more of myself. I am blessed to have such great company with me: Teresa and the Sisters of the Assumption. I apologize for my first blog post being late but I hope you guys can continue to read my post grad service as an (AMA) Associate Missionaries of the Assumption volunteer and learn from my experience. 

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