My name is Elizabeth Lozano. I’m 32 years old. I am a forever student. I was born and raised in Southern California so naturally I feel I grew up in the coolest place in the world. My favorite activities include drinking coffee, talking to people, and talking to people while drinking coffee.
Here’s how I came to Wando in four parts.
Pour Love and Stir
Like most people in my life I met Hans Huo at the coffee shop I worked at, Coffee Klatch in San Dimas. I’d see him just about every day and make him his favorite drink of all time: the traditional double-shot breve cappuccino. We might as well have just named that drink: ‘The Hans.’ I started getting to know him as I like to do with all my customers, and we’d strike up conversations about different things. Mostly we talked about coffee and all things related to coffee, but we also found out that we shared a passion for helping others. He told me about the work he was doing with homeless on Skid Row, and I told him about how I was working with youth who were struggling with substance abuse problems. From there we started throwing out ideas of collaboration. We wanted to do some kind of service work together. What really excited us, though, was the idea of somehow being able to tie the two passions together–coffee and helping others!
Then in August of 2014 I went to Haiti and volunteered at a mission. The experience was life-changing. It was my first time going to a country with such extreme poverty. There was a heaviness I felt from the moment I got off the plane. It was a juxtaposition of two contrasting realities: one was paradise with beautiful lush green scenery, warm sunshine, and ocean winds; the other was the overwhelming presence of oppression, despair, and emptiness. I spent time sharing with inmates in prison. I gave encouragement and hugs to women working in a brothel. I played kickball, danced, and bonded with kids at the orphanage. These experiences pushed me completely out of the realm of my comfort zone. They shaped my heart even more so into a heart desiring to serve those who have been forgotten. I found out that when I serve others I feel even closer to God.
Uganda be kidding me
By then Hans and Michelle had started Wando International, so they were traveling back and forth to Uganda on a regular basis. Hans suggested I come to Uganda with him and the team. I was thrilled at the chance but of course had my own fears. The Ebola crisis was all over the news and so no one I talked to was very enthusiastic about me wanting to go to Africa. Hans reassured me that there was nothing to worry about and so I began preparing to go on a journey to Uganda. I, of course, had nerves jumping out of my skin but I couldn’t wait to experience and help in the work they were doing. When I finally got there, I gotta say the experience was pretty freaking amazing. Visiting the kids at the school and the orphanage was the best part. They would pinch my skin and hang all over me. At times I swear I had like 20 kids on my back. I remembered how easy it was to pour my heart into another person. It didn’t matter if they didn’t understand me or if I didn’t understand them all the way. We communicated with our eyes, hugs, and hearts. I don’t know if I knew it all the way at the time, but this was just the beginning of some deep, meaningful relationships I would build the people there.
Let’s do this!
Coming back from Uganda I was greeted with a whirlwind of emotions. I went right back to working at the coffee bar and doing my studies, but I was also having this deeper desire to continue serving alongside Wando. Long story short, there was an opportunity that opened up and I jumped at it. I came to work with Wando International full time in May of 2015. It was a huge change for me but I was absolutely ready for it. I feel like I’m being utilized for a higher purpose now and I love it! Wando International is my new home, but of course I still love doing my work from local coffee shops. They’re the perfect setting for me to stay caffeinated and have the opportunity to share with others about the work we’re doing in Uganda.