By Father Robert Ratajczak SVD
I have the privilege of working with the Hispanic immigrant community on the beautiful islands of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean. It has been both a joy and a challenge. While it brings me great joy to see the progress and success of our programs and spiritual care, it also can be difficult to witness the hardships that these diligent people face.
Over the years, I have witnessed firsthand the obstacles that these immigrants confront as they strive to provide for their families and build a better life. Many of them come to the island with little more than the clothes on their backs and a dream for a better life.
Through the Hispanic pastoral team’s outreach, we aim to provide them with the support and resources they need to build a new life for themselves and their families. The joy comes in seeing the progress they make, the relationships they build and the hope they renew.
However, the challenges are very real—whether it is the language barrier, the lack of job opportunities, or the discrimination and prejudice that they often face. Despite encountering stumbling blocks, our commitment to these immigrants is unwavering, whether it’s through language classes, job training programs or community-building initiatives.
This concern for the struggles of Hispanic immigrants in our community, many of whom are barely making ends meet, led me to propose free baking classes led by Joel, a talented Venezuelan baker.
Drawing from previous experiences with sewing courses, I was optimistic that this new endeavor would produce positive results despite a fair share of difficulties.
One of the biggest obstacles was the language barrier. Many of the immigrants with whom we work have limited English skills, and Joel spoke mainly Spanish. However, we found creative ways to overcome this barrier, including inviting a bilingual volunteer to assist with translation and creating visual aids to help communicate key concepts.
Despite these challenges, the baking classes have been a tremendous success. Participants have not only learned valuable skills, but they also have developed a sense of community and belonging as they work together to create delicious baked goods.
One student exclaimed, “I never thought I could make bread from scratch, but with Joel’s guidance and the support of my classmates, I did it. Now I feel confident and proud to share my creations with my family and friends.”
Another student commented, “The baking classes have been a lifeline for me during these difficult times. I lost my job due to COVID-19 and have been struggling to make ends meet. But coming to class and learning something new has given me a sense of purpose and hope.”
A third student said, “I never imagined that baking could be so much fun. The classes are not just about learning a new skill but also about building relationships and connecting with others who are going through similar struggles.”
I am grateful to God for the opportunity to serve the Hispanic immigrant community in this way and to see the positive impact that these classes are having on their lives. I am excited to continue exploring new ways to support and empower this community in the years to come.
If you would like to contribute to the efforts of missionaries like Father Ratajczak, please visit www.divinewordgifts.org.