Cycle of Hope

Clarisa Zambrano, Venezuela
Clarisa posing for a photo in front of her Buddhist altar
[© Soka Vision]

When faced with great uncertainty about her future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarisa Zambrano found a way forward, pedal by pedal.

As was the case with many people around the world, I was shocked the day the coronavirus pandemic was declared. I had just spent an entire week holed up inside my house due to a bad migraine. I was also without internet, which meant that I was unable to communicate with my sister in Bogotá, Colombia. This caused me a lot of anxiety and led to a loss of appetite and to smoking and drinking coffee compulsively. In addition, I had only made a few sales—my business is making custom decals and stickers—and had to use the small amount of money I had saved for rent on food because of the COVID lockdown.

I decided to show through my actions that even in these circumstances it is possible to move forward.

The news reports about COVID seemed surreal, like a bad dream. I felt a lot of uncertainty, was disoriented and sad. I chanted a lot and read letters from The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin for encouragement, but I didn’t feel capable of understanding the meaning of anything. I ran out of food on several occasions, but from time to time, a friend would transfer some money into my account, and thanks to that, I could buy food. Some friends even showed up at my place carrying groceries. This is how the first month of quarantine passed.

I thought a lot about the women in my local Soka Gakkai community, but it was difficult to talk to them because sometimes there was no phone signal or they didn’t have electricity.

I often wondered what I could do. I began chanting more and more.

A Turning Point

One day, a customer called and made a purchase. He wasn’t able to come and pick his purchase up because he owned a bakery and started work very early in the morning. His car was also out of gas, so I offered to deliver his order on my bicycle.

When we met, he asked me how much he owed me for the delivery. This caught my attention because it wasn’t something I had considered before. Later, two friends suggested I start a delivery service. This is how I was inspired to use my bicycle for deliveries, and my sustainable transportation venture began.

Clarisa out for delivery on her bicycle
Clarisa out for delivery on her bicycle [© Soka Vision]

I went to businesses in my community and let them know that I was available to help deliver goods. At the same time, I encouraged my friends who had their own businesses not to give up during these particularly difficult times. They were all very despondent and hopeless, and this reality really hit me.

It is very difficult to encourage someone who is suffering and has lost hope. I have a tendency to scold people, so I made a concerted effort to change this tendency through approaching people with more compassion and love. I decided to show through my actions that even in these circumstances it is possible to move forward. I did my best to keep in touch with the young women in my local Soka Gakkai group, to be there for them and encourage them, despite challenges with communication due to loss of phone and internet connection.

One day, something really surprising happened. My doorbell rang. It was my two elderly neighbors to whom I had previously offered my services free of charge. They told me about food aid provided by the city due to the lockdown. This was a huge benefit.

Generating Hope

I have been able to continue my delivery service and make money. I deliver things such as medicine, gifts for birthdays and special occasions, food, masks and letters. I feel tremendous gratitude and feel I have demonstrated that even amidst the worst circumstances we can change poison into medicine.

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Clarisa making a delivery [© Soka Vision]

The most important thing is that, despite the circumstances, I do everything with a sense of joy, filled with conviction and hope that the situation will change, pedal by pedal. While doing deliveries, people sometimes offer me water and encourage me not to stop. They applaud me when they see me pedaling uphill with a basket loaded with approximately 10 kg of goods. They ask me what I sell and praise my eye-catching cycling gear.

Young people ask me how they can work with me. One day, a man told me: “You are a new class of Venezuelan with legs of steel, a little iron bike and a lot of heart!”

I am convinced that my Buddhist practice and the Soka Gakkai community have helped me become the person I am today. I am eternally grateful.

Daisaku Ikeda, third president of the Soka Gakkai, encourages us to take personal responsibility for creating peace. Inspired by this sentiment, I am determined to stand up wherever I am and look after those around me.

Adapted from the July-September 2020 issue of Seikyo Criollo, SGI-Venezuela