Monday, September 26, 2011

Reality Check

“If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Mother Theresa

 I live like a king here. I have filtered water, three meals a day, tile floor in my room, and my laptop. Even though I may have to take a military shower or maybe the Internet won’t work for a couple of days or maybe I will have to deal with ants crawling in my bed at night, I have absolutely nothing to complain about.  I love the carefree life here, the way I feel riding in the back of a pickup truck or on top of a bus with the green mountains stretching for miles and miles. But the truth is, the reality of life here is not always carefree and easy like I have portrayed it to be. The truth is that in Santa Lucia alone, 71% of the population doesn’t have a filtration system for the water they drink, that only 7% of the total population has gone to school past their primary education, and that 50% of the houses have a dirt floor (a true indicator of poverty: the richest in the area have tile, then cement, and then dirt). Sometimes it’s easy to forget these things with the people I interact with everyday when I am not seeing their homes and their lives firsthand.
Students playing a ball game "Quemado" in front of the clinic for Independence Day
 It is easy to block out the realities of life here in town where the poorest of the poor don’t live. When I work with the kids I can focus on their spirits and their zest for life, on the way they bring treats for me everyday even when I know they don’t have the extra money for it and in the way they smile and laugh despite what their situation is at home. But I’m reminded in the little things too. For example, I am reminded when one of the students Fernanda, who stays after to help me clean, tells me that her mom and sister are both deaf and that her dad left them so they have no means to make money. All of her older sisters and brothers have dropped out of school after 6th grade because it is too expensive for them to pay for the uniforms and the school supplies and they need to help at home. I know Fernanda is bright as she reads very well but as I look at her torn shirt, her shoes that are too small, and her eager eyes, I can’t help but be sad for what her future holds.
Students outside of the library at the Dia de la Independencia celebration
 I am reminded in the harshness of life here as I talk to the translators for the brigades who have traveled and lived in the United States. One translator in particular, Alex, put everything on the line in his 20 day journey crossing through Guatemala and Mexico. He had friends that didn’t make it and were killed and others who got sent home and had to try three or four times to get across the border. Once they get to the United States, they are forgotten. People don’t even look at them or see them as people. Instead he worked for $4.50 an hour, sixty hours a week and lived in a cramped apartment with eight other people. He sent money back to his family when he couldn’t even afford to pay his own rent. The immigrants are not there by choice but rather by necessity because they have no opportunity here and all they want is to support their families. Most all of them are illegal “aliens”, no one in America cares about them yet they sacrifice everything just for the one chance at improving their lives and the lives of their family. The richest people in this community are those who have family in the States or those who have gone to the States and returned home to live. If this is what everyone is seeing, why wouldn’t they try for a chance to get this too?
View from riding on top of the bus (my new favorite activity in Honduras)
 Things have to get better here and it has to be from within. The problem is that when these living conditions and corrupt government systems have been in place for so long, it is going to be very difficult to change anything. But instead of getting frustrated, I have to focus on the small changes I can make. I may not be able to give more jobs to the people in this community but I can help a deserving student get a scholarship to attend high school through the education program. I may not be able to prevent someone from getting a parasite or diarrhea through the unfiltered water they drink, but I can help plan a medical brigade that will treat them. It is a complicated life here full of hardship and I know that no matter how helpless the reality may seem at times, I must focus on the little things and on the relationships I am making and through this, I can still have hope that things here can and will get better.

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