Our day started off with a 7 am wake up call with an American breakfast, which consisted of scrambled eggs, toast, and pineapple juice. It was enough to prepare us for a long, emotional day. Today we visited a local school, as well as the city dump. To prepare us, we had an academic seminar where we learned about poverty in the Dominican Republic and in other developing countries. Some shocking facts that we learned are that 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day, and 1.5 billion people live on less than $1 a day. Those facts definitely stuck with us as we went through our day as we ourselves saw those living in poverty throughout Constanza.
Before we left, we also had a team building experience to prepare us even more for the dump. We were warned about the circumstances that these people were working in. We also learned that some people were even living in the dump in tents made of a wood board and plastic tarps (called “Casitas”), which shocked us all. Although we knew they were living in harsh conditions we were trained to not show any reactions or emotions to them as to not offend them; this experience definitely touched our hearts, especially talking to the people.
Our first visit was to a local school called Cencaini. The children were so delighted to see us and immediately attached themselves onto us. We engaged in a game of basketball with the kids, and some of them really had some ball handling skills! Along with basketball, games of tag and hide-and-seek were played, and plenty of piggy back rides were given. We also had some of our talented artists face painting for the kids, along with some kids painting on our faces! It was so much fun, until we had to say goodbye. Although so little time was spent with them, many memories were made and a lot of attachments were formed. The kids clung onto us as they walked us out to the bus, it was hard to say goodbye.
After our heartfelt time at the school, we then drove a short distance to find ourselves at the city dump. Even though we were warned ahead of time, we were all astonished and taken aback actually seeing the environment these people were working in, and some people were even living in.. Their working conditions were poor. Flies were everywhere and there was definitely a distinct smell, however, our group was able to take it all in and not show any reactions to it, which we are definitely proud of them for. We were split up into five groups and each interviewed somebody that works there. Although both of us had similar experiences, there were some differences in the guys we talked to.
Prianka’s experience: Walking around the dump was a touching experience. It definitely changed my perspective on things and how wasteful we can be. Before going to the dump I kind of expected the conditions they were in to be harsh, but what really surprised me the most was that there were also plenty of kids at the dump. The guy my group talked to was Jose Manuel and he was very humble. He worked at the dump as a supervisor and lived in one of the casitas next to the dump. He used to work in Bonao in a gardening business, but when the business shutdown he ended up leaving his family and working and living at the dump in Constanza. He has worked at the dump since 1995 and he said he has been unable to save enough to work elsewhere. From what he told me the workers get paid based on what they find and we’ve gotten ranges of anywhere from 300 pesos on a good day to nothing a day (300 pesos is about $6 USD). What really touched my heart was that although chances for him of getting out of poverty are slim he still had many hopes and dreams. He hoped to be able to move away from the dump and continue a gardening business. Even though we had many differences such as the circumstances we’re living under, we both had similarities as well such as having goals and dreams for ourselves. After this day, I realized that even though I never really considered myself spoiled, I definitely am. In fact, many of us in the United States are. We don’t have to rummage through the dump to search for food or find stuff to resell for money, and we all come home to beds, running water, and a roof over our heads. I am really thankful to not lack basic resources needed to live and today’s experience was really an eye opener.
Kat’s Experience: Arriving at the dump and seeing how people live under such terrible conditions was just mind blowing. I knew that poverty existed in the world, but seeing it with my own eyes shifted my perspective on how I see the world. Our tour guide was named Chi Chi, he was in his late sixties and had been working at the dump for about seven years. My group and I asked what his job consisted of and how much he got paid. His job consisted of unloading the garbage trucks and arranging the trash, and his salary was 400 pesos a month ($8 US dollars). Chi Chi is not alone, he is amongst 100s of other workers who work hard, in order to support their family. Something that struck me the most, was a comment that Chi Chi said, which was ” I would not get an education now at this age if I could, I am old and now I work for the education of my children.” The reason why his comment impacted me was because he believed that he was ” too old” to get an education, which could improve his career, which then would lead to a more stable income for his family. Personally, that amazed me because it is never to late to get an education, it is never to late to improve one self, and it is never to late to make a change. All in all, this day has impacted me in so many ways; I am thankful and appreciate what I have, not only materialistically, but things that one cannot hold. Being El Lider Del Dia, made me realize the great responsibility one holds as a leader and the importance of setting the example for the rest of the group. In addition, it also made me see that I was not above anyone, we were all equal and we all support each other when we fall.
After we finished talking with our tour guides we then gifted them with soap and a portable hand washer made from a soda bottle since they don’t have any running water at the dump. We also gave them cookies to thank them for their time and then we were on our way back to the hostel. The ride back to the hostel was very quiet as many students were thinking about what they had just experienced. Many of us always hear about poverty but seeing it with your own eyes is always a different experience.
Once we arrived back at the hostel we all then started to prepare for our English classes later that night. After all the experiences we’ve had this past week many of us realized how important it is to have an education here or be able to speak English in order to receive a good job in the Dominican Republic. As a result, everyone was very committed to preparing for their English classes to be able to have a good class and provide many resources for their students. We are so proud of how much passion everybody teaches their English classes with. To conclude, the experience of being El Lider Del Dia was great because there were two leaders and we all supported each other.