Celia with her new garden.As a Kiva Fellow you realize the journals you write quickly become lost in the depths of hundreds of pages, full of testimonials begging to be read. I wanted to share one story I’ve found particularly moving, and hope you will, too.

An excerpt from a journal from Ayacucho, Peru:

“Celia has faced many difficulties in her life- her husband left her 21 years ago to raise 11 children on her own. She has lost three of those children, one just last year, and of the remaining children left in her care, three of them are blind due to a hereditary illness. While a challenge anywhere, the steep and unsteady dirt road that leads to Ayacucho’s cobblestone streets full of unforgiving traffic poses extra challenges for her blind children, and Celia dedicates herself daily to providing for all her children, and is saving now to buy new and sturdier canes that will enable them to move about with more ease and safety.

As if Celia hadn’t faced enough in her life, an earthquake hit Peru a few months ago, and much of Celia’s home was destroyed. Fortunately, her store, which is attached to her home, was not affected and she has been able to continue with her business as usual, which is more important than ever with the new expense of rebuilding her home.

Celia has an amazing and inspiring way of accepting the hardships in her life. She smiles and says ‘asi es la vida’- that’s life- and all we can do is to pick up and keep on going. While describing the earthquake, Celia said everything just kept shaking, and because they live on a hill, everything from houses above them fell on their house.

After describing the fear from the earthquake, she asks if she can show me something, and takes me out back of her home, where the firewood she sells is stacked, and I wonder if it’s this she wants me to see. But she walks me over to a small garden where herbs and vegetables are growing. Celia looks at me with eyes of determination and hope, and tells me that this is where her kitchen stood before the earthquake. I am amazed at her perseverance and will to continue, and her ability to take the destructive ruins from a tragedy and create life in a beautiful garden.”

I remember as a child (and still, today) being fascinated by grass growing from cracks in the sidewalk. How could life spring from something so barren? Celia has done the same, and once again, I am fascinated. Well into her seventies, with every story she shares she somehow radiates sunshine from her eyes with the innocence of a child, and the collective wisdom of generations long ago. She has learned the secret of living peacefully amidst a chaotic and broken society, doing more than her part to leave the world more beautiful than she found it.

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