An Unexpected Dream Journey
I am Elba Polanco. At some point in my life, I discovered that serving was one of my passions. I feel I have a sensitivity which allows me to enjoy, when I serve, helping other people. Moreover, my learning to serve was fostered in great measure by seeing my father passionately serving other people; the rest is history, as God has taken care of infusing me with His grace.
My engagement with the social centers started with the coordination of the administrative team of what used to be known as CEFASA and today, after the restructuring of the social centers in the Dominican Republic and the merger of four organizations, is a single social center called "Center for Reflection and Social Action Fr. Juan Montalvo".
Before engaging in this work, my conversations with God were already focused on my desire of having a working experience related to my main training in administrative skills that would enable me to respond to, support and contribute to the lives of my people. I didn't want to deal only with numbers, papers and other monotonous stuff; I wanted to contribute in some way to the well-being of other people. These dreams came true in August 2010, when I was offered the opportunity of joining the Center.
It has been a journey of personal transformation, in which the face and the life reality of the people we are accompanying spoke directly to mine. It has allowed me to discover value and to feel love in all I do. The human closeness and joy pervading the relations with the vulnerable people we come into contact with has been one of the elements transforming the way I look at the reality that surrounds me; as a believer, I see God's presence in all that and understand such a journey as part of a divine plan.
Migration issues are a very characteristic part of the Center's mission. As in many neighboring countries, migration has become a highly controversial social issue in the Dominican Republic. For me, seeing how Haitians migrate from their country moved by self-preservation in the face of the reality prevailing there and how Dominicans feel culturally imbued and ever growing hatred for this migrant population is an important reason of concern. Even a greater sorrow comes from the feeling that many of us who call ourselves Christians and are devoted to proclaim the Gospel to other people or even play an active role in the Church (or the apostolic community) behave toward Haitians in a way contradicting our claim that we have really encountered Christ in our lives. And such a feeling forces me to wonder whether we have really met Christ and let him transform us. Are we really aware of what we, as prophets, herald with our attitudes, expressions, etc? All this stirs my heart, and I wonder what kind of prophets we have become.
Along this journey, I have met many people: Jesuits, laypersons engaged in different Ignatian works and, especially, grassroots people with a sense of commitment and persuaded that it is possible to achieve social transformation. All these people have inspired my approach to life, causing me to rejoice both over what I do and over whom I do it for. I must not forget to mention the Ignatian spirituality I have encountered in these groups and activities, which has undoubtedly helped me to reach spiritual maturity.
The Center has a team of people organized in such a manner that we support each other, assuring that all aspects of our work, from administrative to technical tasks, contribute to achieve the aims we have for the beneficiaries of our programs.
Finally, the persuasion that my serving engagement is inspired by love to God and to my neighbor becomes ever more present in my moments of personal meditation. This commitment has, as well as these people and these realities we have decided to serve, a great prominence in such moments of prayer.