Author Archives: Valerie Torrez
For the past three years Roadrunner Food Bank’s Southern Branch has been the beneficiary of a very large and meaningful food drive event in Southern New Mexico. The Bataan Memorial Death March (www.bataanmarch.com) is a challenging march through White Sands Missile Range in honor of service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces and among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. They were forced to march for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a POW camp. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting POW’s to Japan were sunk by U.S. air and naval forces.
I have been working with Roadrunner Food Bank for almost 2 years, but it wasn’t until recently I had the honor of moving to Las Cruces and becoming the Southern Branch’s Manager of Community Relations. I have only been in Las Cruces now for about 3 months, and I am continually amazed by the generosity and friendliness I have encountered in Southern New Mexico. When I first started working in the Food Bank’s Southern Branch, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Richelle Ponder of the Las Cruces Rotary’s Wednesday Group, informing me that we had been selected as the 2013 Taste of Las Cruces Non-Profit Beneficiary. What a great way to begin my time in Las Cruces! Since then I have worked with many wonderful people on the Planning Committee whom have made planning this event fun and rewarding.
When you are committed to helping others there is no limit to where and what you can do; everyone needs help with something no matter who or where you are in the world. There are varying degrees of aid, and having spent time in foreign countries, I don’t think it’s fair to say that people abroad need more than we as Americans do. I think that misconception exists because the general standard of living we are capable of achieving is much higher here than in other parts of the world. A good example of how everyone can use help comes from my time spent living in Brazil. When I lived in Brazil I was there to help the most impoverished population, but what I didn’t know was how I needed their help too. In Brazil I worked in an emergency food program (EFP) which served the women and children living in a rural favela, or slum, outside of Montenegro in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil. During this time I was tasked with helping these women generate income by making crafts out of items that could be found or reused. Being a highly educated woman from the United States, suffice it to say my crochet and rug making lessons were somewhat obtuse, but I tried! After our lessons we would distribute food to those women, and they would walk back into the favela to their hovels and shacks. The feeling of giving someone food, knowing that they cannot and may never be able to provide for themselves or their family is heartbreaking. I could help, but what could I really do to change their lives? Little did I know that it was what they would do for me in return that would change my life and lead me to where I am today.