Hi all family and friends! My name is Kalvin Lam and I currently attend Evergreen Valley High School (San Jose, CA).
Today was a day filled not only with fun and excitement, but also with life changing and stressful moments. Rising early at 5AM, our delegation prepared to travel to “El Basurero” (the dump). We wore our sturdy boots and rode the bus in complete silence. The purpose of the silent bus ride was for everyone to think pensively and really reflect about personal experiences; the dump was a place that challenged our basic assumptions and standards about living conditions.
I was most surprised today by the demeanor and attitude of the people we met today. The community of people living at the dump endured extremely harsh conditions. At the dump, flies swarmed everywhere, smoke clouds rose in every single direction due to trash (primarily plastic) burning, and harmful fumes filled the air, causing many of us to cough. Despite this, the people living there smiled when we greeted them and welcomed us into their community. I was also surprised when Doña Francisco, a resident of the community, was describing her life in the rural area. She explained how she “felt abandoned” and “forgotten” by the Nicaraguan government. Despite this, she told all of us that having her family around her brought her happiness, and she encouraged us to ask questions about her life. I felt that she was happy with so little because it was all she ever had in her life.
My peers and I learned that life can be challenging in ways that we cannot even imagine. We learned that the lifestyle that many of us live in the U.S. is not common in the world. We learned that the only way to combat issues like these is to focus on solution based thinking and try not to feel pity for the lives that these people live, but instead try to understand and alleviate the issue at its core. I am most proud of how my peers really took the experiences today seriously.
The most inspiring person I met today was named Angel. A twelve year old boy who lived in the dump, he was abandoned by his parents and kicked out of primary school because of a learning disability. He told us that he normally slept atop all the trash in the dump. When I asked him what he liked to do, his sole response was “I like to work.” Despite his hardships, he gave us a tour of his home with an enthusiastic attitude. I would never be able to imagine that I would be able to smile and be optimistic if life were that difficult. Also, I was so surprised because Angel told us the other people living in the dump helped to give him food every day. It was amazing to see that even though people living in the community had so little, they were still willing to help one another. It is something I feel many people in the world can learn from.
Being the leader of the day today was extremely stressful but also rewarding at the same time. I learned that as a leader I need to take care of myself before I can take care of others. It is something that I often struggle with and I am glad I had this experience. Overall, I am glad to be able to be part of this delegation and I am excited for the final week!
-Delegation E1C over and out!