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Vilma Caban-Vazquez: How Morocco Changed My Life

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Vilma Caban-Vasquez Activates Hearts On Awakin Call

“I want to be able to serve in one of the two capacities. I want to be the light that can inspire and create positive change in others. Or, I want to serve as a mirror that would reflect and further transcend light so that the folks can continue to be inspired and have that pay forward and forward and forward..."

"My goal today while serving in capacity of this call is to be able to inspire and hopefully activate hearts, so that people can think more about service and what it could look like in their life,” said Vilma Caban-Vazquez while starting the Awakin call conversation.

My mom used to go to the Saint Brigid Church at 6th street in the New York City. I was baptized there. However, I had never visited the place after that. I had buried my past from childhood. My biological father left us before I was born. My mother married another person. I had unpleasant memories of abuse and alcoholism from my step-father. When my mom passed away from cancer, it made me think about my past and my life. I wanted answers. I visited the church. I walked into the space; I could only imagine what prayers were. There would be thoughts of hope from my mom since I was about to come in the world, what you were going to do …etc. I did my research; I found out that Saint Brigid is the patron saint for babies, fugitives, sailors, scholars and travelers. Then, it made perfect sense to me. Maybe church was a special niche that gave my mama her space. There was a purpose behind it all. I became empathetic about it. It healed me. When you run into obstacles and understand them, you are able to overcome them. It is self-empowering.

I am elastic; I am able to recover from setbacks. I saw my mother doing it since I was very young. I sought legitimacy, affirmation from outside sources while growing up. I got equity from education. Ability to manage it all made me think about serving. The Alchemist from Paulo Coelho has made a deep impact on me while following my heart and calling from inside.

The feeling of compassion is a core, gut feeling from the heart. In Latin, heart also means courage. Sometimes you feel pulled away from serving, you feel fatigued. Serving requires you to let go of your ego and follow your heart. Living by my heart is a creative place where I am inviting others to do the same. I feel relaxed; it relieves the tension and anxiety. Following my own heart is self compassion, self love. In the act of service, I am serving that light to inspire others. I become a mirror that reflects compassion. It keeps me going with service in trying moments; it is giving me courage. When my step-father got ill, I was there by his side; my brother adored him. My mom didn’t come. In his illness, I saw good side of him. We had beautiful conversations. I forgave him. I urged him to let go grudges, to move on. Trauma and terror of bad experiences with my step-dad broke my spirit when I was young. It was the ugliest thing in my life that I had buried deep down. I never wanted to go back to it. However, I am so glad now that I did. It also gives me inspiration and courage to serve, “if you can deal with the ugliest thing that broke your spirit and still serve, then you can serve anywhere”.

Vilma on her work in Morocco … There are push factors that are forcing children to the streets, and then there are pull factors that are keeping them there. It is a complex situation, it is messy – and I love that part. I am a curious soul; I focus and find ways. In many cases, the children there work from 7:00 AM in the morning till 11:00 PM. They are traumatized with verbal abuse, social isolation; there is physical abuse with slapping, kicking and punching. Despite all that Moroccan children are resilient. These children aren’t broken. Nurture them so they can go right back in. Educate them; keep them healthy; give them what they need. Make them independent. Future of the nation lies in the potential of these children.

A couple of touching moments that Vilma brought up from her time in Morocco…Once I saw a man kneeling down and praying at the prayer hall in air port. I saw that and started crying. I was touched that someone would carve out time to serve the god like that. Why would people from the western world judge them? … I was in a social gathering where people were sharing food from a triangular plate. Not being aware of the social norms, I started eating from different sides of the plate. My friend took me to side later on explaining that everyone would limit only to the nearest side of the plate.

We used to live life of "keeping up with the Jones". My service work guided me to live simple life. We moved from a 3000 sq ft home to a 700 sq ft cottage. I want to maximize my effort and resources for my acts of service. Getting rid of my landline telephone and internet at home are radical changes to lifestyle. However, I am comfortable with it. When I humbly ask my friends to use their office, I am dissolving my ego. While following my heart, I also feel as if I am listening to the child inside of me. I am not compromising who I want to be from inside; that is giving me the strength and courage.

On the question of how you keep connection with the god… I stay around people and community I am comfortable with. That helps me. I also love to be alone; moments of stillness give me peace and direction.
Vilma’s next service initiative is in Gautemala, learn more about it at PROYECTO MI HOGAR

See more about Vilma on her blog

It seemed to me as if Vilma expressed her thoughts with an edge of vulnerability. At the same time, she seemed so well anchored & secured in message that flowed from her heart.

Vilma certainly inspired one positive change in me – I somehow felt a little bit more secured in who I am.

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