Monday, November 12, 2012

It Takes a Village - Spotlight on Maritza Alvarez-Romero

I started the project "It Takes a Village" in 2010 with the help of a new friend, Maritza Alvarez-Romero. Our friendship began when I was involved in a project called, Little Dresses for Africa and I was making dresses to be sent to Casa Emanuel, an orphanage in Guinea Bissau where Maritza works. After our successful project and tons of emails, we decided to team up and continue our efforts by building a school, a well and a medical center in Djati, Guinea Bissau. This was the start of It Takes a Village.

Maritza  Alvarez-Romero was born in Costa Rica where she lived for 17 years.
Her mother was a nurse, and her father a Civil Engineer and former vice minister of the department of transportation. She has one bother named Mario and a half sister named Laura. Maritza's DNA is Chinese from Manchuria on moms side and south of Spain on her dad's side

The children attended Methodist Schools founded by American missionaries, where they learned English and Spanish.

The family immigrated to the United States in 1970 and are American Citizens who embody the song '' proud to be an American".

Maritza attended  Buffalo State University and graduated with a Bachelors and a Masters Degree. While in Buffalo she worked as an honorary Vice Counsel of the Costa Rican government. Although she enjoyed meeting interesting people, on a diplomatic level, and admits "It was a wonderful time in my life", nevertheless she knew that was not what she really wanted to do with her life.

It takes a certain kind of person to give up the comforts of life to live in such poor and dangerous conditions. I said to Maritza just the other day "I would not last one week in the bush!" Just sayin!

Read the rest of the story in Maritza's own words below.
I enjoyed floral design and went through a two year program thinking that some day I would retire and have a nice little flower shop. after all any old person could sit and do flowers. I also love photography and took two years of photography, I've been taking pictures since I was eleven years and think a great picture only takes, being at the right place at the right time...perhaps a chance God gives us at capturing His beauty.
Maritza, Willie, Isabel and me in Guinea Bissau, Feb 2012
After graduation I taught for 30 years for the Buffalo Board of Education until retirement five years ago.

Before retiring I did missionary work in Costa Rica, working during my vacations at an Indian Reservation, my church sent me money for a small building project and we build a Sunday school room, a kitchen, bathroom, installed a well for the people in the area of Boruca,Costa Rica. Since Boruca didn't have a hotel I spent many nights in a cabin tent that I bought in America and there we lived and worked among the people until the work was completed.

My mom, a nurse also did child evangelism in remote villages and at an early age, my brother, and I joined her reaching out to the children in different areas. My dad an engineer, worked in remote areas building the Pan American highway and other main roads and this took us out of the '' ordinary'' city life into remote villages where learned to travel by canoe, on horseback, by car or on foot...whatever was needed. (unbeknown to me, God's preparation for later on in life). My mom and dad came from large families and tried hard at getting an education and wanted us to have a good life experience with the real people. While a part time missionary during my Summer breaks I met another missionary from Guinea Bissau. 

Randii and Maritza, Guinea Bissau Feb 2012
I had never heard of this place and had no idea where it was. I met Connie Alessi, who expressed a desire in helping my friends orphanage in Guine Bissau. I became their contact and translator. Connie bought my first ticket to Guine and I came as her translator. After that I came a few more times during the Summer to help out a little. I had no intention of coming back here full time. God dealt with me and put it in my heart to come and every time I had that thought I would reject it and exclaimed out loud '' NO WAY'.' I felt this was no place to live, that it looked more like the land of the lost and a forgotten planet than a place connected to the rest of the world...the area is extremely poor, many diseases and what I was looking forward to was a nice quiet retirement lodge near a river or a beach where I could read and write. I love poetry and at times enjoy writing it...oh well, God had other plans for me...I finally agreed to come as principal of Liceu Comunitario Emanuel in Guinea Bissau. 
Maritza's office @ Casa Emanuel
Our High School is part of Casa Emanuel where children from Guine Bissau and some from the orphanage study. Here I fell in love with Guineans, quiet, gentle some extremely brave, who struggle to survive in a country that has few opportunities. My teachers are all young men who studied at local universities and all regretted the fact that they couldn't continue with their education due to lack of finances or lack of university programs.
Gazebo @ Casa Emanuel
Now I speak Krioul, the native language, that is the most common language in Guinea Bissau. In fact, it is the ONLY language that all ethnic groups communicate in. The national language is Portuguese and and many Guinean do not speak it, I also speak Spanish and English and if Rosetta Stone proves to be a good language program someday I may speak Italian.

Maritza & Lucas doing medical outreach Nov 2012
I am a born again Christian, and a member of Calvary Full Gospel Church in Kenmore, New York. Here in Guine I go to the Christian Church in Quebo, I love their youth outreach and work with Freddy and Raquel (their teens are their '' children''). It is and awesome program. I am glad the Lord chose this place for me to work among His people, as you know "I" never would have chosen it.

I have been in Guine 5 years. and with Gods help I will try to remain as long as I am able,

It has been a wonderful fulfilling experience not only serving God but serving His people.
Thank you Maritza for all you do! We look forward to working with you for a long time to come.


Anonymous said...

Good story. What a blessing. Good luck with your endeavors.

Connie Alessi said...

Maritza is a dedicated and giving person who is consistently ready to help anyone in need, even if her own need is great. A true friend, an amazing woman.

devon said...

Hi Connie

So true!