Deconstructing Poverty Day
We had an early start to the day with a 6:30 AM wake-up call. It wasn’t hard to wake up because the heat kept everyone awake during the night and into the morning. After a quick mental warmup, we headed to our first destination: the La Vega dump. The bus ride was a spontaneous group karaoke session, with artists like Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars. Once we arrived at the site, we got a tour of the working areas and spoke to some of the workers. We were surprised to find that the smell wasn’t overpowering, the areas were organized, and we were able to feel safe. Standing in the blazing sun, we learned from the leaders that there aren’t many job options for the people in this region, and that many of the workers didn’t have a choice. Many of us were exposed to new sights and smells, as it was our first time in a working environment as dangerous as this one (we stayed away from any risky situations though). We learned that the dump ran on an efficient system of sorting that was environmentally friendly, with a herd of cows that ate the sorted compost. Visiting the site helped us learn to appreciate the smaller things, and to be thankful for our opportunities. The bus ride back was a time for quiet reflection and also for some much needed sleep.
Afterwards, we drove to La Fundacion Luis Terror Dias, a shelter for Bonao’s homeless youth. We crowded into a cozy home around a row of tables. There, we shared a tasty lunch with the kids and the founder of the shelter, Oscar Lopez. He told us the story of how he was inspired to start the Fundacion after the passing of his dear friend and famous musician, Luis Terror Dias. At the time, he decided to provide kids with the education and protection needed to give them a better future, and he inspired us to make a change as well. We closed our time there with a short prayer, with words of inspiration about finding happiness through helping others. After we returned to the accommodations, we prepared for our final English tutoring class as well as for our CAP seminars the next day. Once we finished, we had some free time to go out with the ambassadors to get snacks or to hang out. It was nice to have a chance to relax with the ambassadors and to unwind with some games. Dinner was delicious as usual, with Licelot’s best spaghetti.
Our experience with poverty in the DR was drastically different from what we had experienced in the US. While the US has laws and actions in place that provide assistance to the impoverished, the DR has little to no government aid, and the people rely on each other through their own sustainable systems. For example, the dump and the Fundacion did not receive any government money and were created by locals, for locals. It was a powerful experience to be able to take this knowledge of different perspectives that we can apply back home.