“YOU put your heart into whatever you do, not because you’re expecting someone to reward you – it’s just to see people happy and smiling,” Latin American Catholic Community member Marina Castellanos said.
Mrs Castellanos knew a thing or two about volunteering.
She had volunteered with the Latin American Catholic Community for more than 28 years and spent 10 years at the Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care helping migrants and refugees settle in the country.
Volunteering, she said, was deeply rewarding.
“It’s just to feel youthful, that’s the most rewarding I think, to feel that – despite your age – you can still help without any reward,” she said.
“Just the smile of the people and to be there and to be present – that is the most important for me, to be present.”
Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions and its potential impacts on her health had put a halt on Mrs Castellanos’ volunteering days.
“Volunteering has stopped, it’s very sad,” Mrs Castellanos said.
“I’m not young enough (and) now I have to take care of myself as well.
“I have to stop, and it feels like I’m missing something inside me.”
Life would not be the same as it was before after COVID-19, she said.
“The other day when my grandchildren came to see me, they were outside standing at a distance,” she said.
“It was very sad.
“They used to be able to come up to hug me and I could do the same, but now… it was very sad.”
She said especially in Latin American communities that they “value what it means to be close to someone”.
“To kiss… the Latin American people are very kissing people,” she said.
Even as volunteering had stopped and social distancing affected how people interacted, Mrs Castellanos’ prayer life was as strong as ever.
“I pray the whole day,” she said.
“Because I stay by my own, I have time to keep silent with God – I talk to Him very closely.”
She said she prayed the Rosary with her community and prayed for the end of the pandemic.
“Because of the crisis, people have lost their jobs, the mental health problems and the increase of domestic violence; we’re very concerned and we pray that this has to finish,” she said.
“We have to see another way of life.
“We cannot continue like that, we can’t.
“We have to appreciate the things we have, and now we have the time to appreciate everything we’ve taken for granted.”
She said it was a call to “look back to Jesus”.
“We have to promote the Kingdom of God, we have to learn the signs, what God is telling us with the crisis we have now.
“We have to see what he really wants from us.
“We have to act and do something for those who are more vulnerable and suffering, like migrants, refugees, those who have lost their jobs, those who are suffering more violence at home, more mental health problems.
“I’m really concerned about that and I’m praying we find new ways to live according to Jesus, the Kingdom of God.”