Hi everyone, today just like every other day before it was filled with new experiences, surprises and of course, lots of laughs. Our day began with loud knocks on the door at 5:30 am sharp to get dressed and ready for breakfast, a delicious spread of scrambled eggs, toast and fruit; of which we were all grateful was not beans and rice. After breakfast we had a quick poverty seminar to get us ready for our trip to the city dump. However, before we drove to the dump, first we stopped by Las Hormiguitas; a group of volunteers and teachers that go around to impoverished areas such as the dump and teach kids, teens and even adults basic lessons from their mobile school.
As we began approaching the dump we saw the houses become more and more meager and poverty stricken, and trash lined along the sides of the road, and covering the bare branches of the trees. The closer we got the more prevalent the trash became as well as the flies, which began to swarm us inside the bus. When we arrived I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what we saw. Piles of garbage cloaked the ground, people of all ages walking through piles of dirt hoping to find something of value or that they could trade for money, vultures, cows and flies. Hundreds if not thousands of flies flying in every direction. Needless to say it took us all by surprise, and not in a good way.
—–(Part 2 written by Mr. V, apologies to Pam and families due to network issues)—-
“The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.”
The quote of the day was something that students wrestled with as they spent the last two days witnessing extreme levels of poverty not often seen in the US. These communities seemed to be in “survival mode”, a possible cycle of doing whatever each individual can do for food and shelter. In the dump, there was zero shame in the work because it was honest work. Some of the younger workers even attended school in the afternoon. If they were not afforded that opportunity, Las Hormiguitas, an organization that works with under-served youth, brought their mobile school to the dump as way to highlight lessons of math, language, and even personal health. Many students reflected positively upon the little boy that was practicing his handwriting and spelling even in the midst of a swarm of flies. It seemed that this group of “priviliged” American teenagers were able to identify the beauty of a people that were making the best out of their situation. As teachers of high school youth, myself and Mr. Goldman, have the great privilege to understand that teenagers are capable of empathy, compassion, caring, and action. Experiences that create awkward situations often bring the most opportunity for reflection and today was no exception.
For me, the question that continually came up over the last two days was, “Are these people giving in and settling for their current way of living?” In the evening time, we watched an excellent documentary, “Dreaming Nicaragua”, that followed the travels of an artist bringing his passion to the same type of communities we had been visiting. In the film, the camera follows individual children as they spend their days going to school, working in the dump, or tending to their homes. In the story of the girl that lives in the dump, she shared her aspirations to be a model, a demonstration that each individual sees something greater in themselves in spite of any current obstacles. The outside observer may see what they want to see in these people, make judgments, and assume that one observation can be applied to everyone that is remotely similar. This movie brought out the stories of people we would not necessarily have a chance to talk to. At the dump in Matagalpa, we also had a chance to talk to one girl, Yara, who had been working in the dump for 8 years. She, like the girl in the movie, had bigger goals in mind as she would hope to train to be a lawyer in the future. As she shared this dream on the barren landscape of the dump, with dozens of workers and cows huddled around newly dropped off trash, this girl provided an antithesis to the quote mentioned above. And the reason we know that is because someone asked her about her aspirations.
As we venture further into this trip, we will continually prompt students to ask more and more questions because they never know what assumptions will be demystified.