Carson Graham – Day 6 – In Their Shoes
Today was a hard day. As a group we saw a lot of difficult things and worked alongside some very strong people. Today we went and worked in a garbage dump to pick out recyclables. This activity is called In Their Shoes, because it is able to give us a bit of a glimpse at how some of the people live.
When we drove into the dump the first thing I noticed was the flies. Then the smell. And then the size. And then the people. I had never been to a garbage dump before, so I had no idea what to expect. The dump was much bigger than I had pictured, and very flat with most of the ground covered in trash. When we got off the buses a couple kids came over and stood by us. One little boy walked over and grabbed my hand. He became my partner for the next few hours!
Before we came we were told that many Haitians and Dominicans worked in the garbage dump and that it was hard labour. These are the types of people that you may think of when you think about poverty. But seeing it in person was so different than hearing a number or a fact. These people have names, faces, families, and stories. The boy I worked with was only 10 years old and his name was Manuel. What we needed to do was to search through the garbage for plastic bottles that he could trade in for money for his family. 10 year old is so young to have that kind of a responsibility. When he told me his age I thought back to my brother at home who is almost the same age and I couldn’t imagine him being in this place. I hate that, how there is such a disparity in the world. How some kids can live easily and go to school and play sports, while others like Manuel have to work in a dump. From the dump you could also see a beautiful view. This made me think of how often we go on vacation to places of poverty but don’t see beyond what is in front of our eyes. There is so much beauty, but there is also so much poverty. And this is something a lot of people can’t see or choose not to acknowledge.
What stood out to me was how young and innocent this boy was and how fast he had to grow up. While we were working he seemed so sure of himself and confident. We were waking down the road when a military man drove by. Manuel stood very close to me and held my hand again. I hope that today I was able to show him that people care about him and that it’s ok for him to still be a little boy. But at the end of the day we went back to our resort and Manuel went back to his home. I may have helped him a bit but this will probably be his job for most of his life and that hurts.
Finally The moment the stood out to me the most, and made me the most sad and angry about this life was when the translator was asking him some questions for me. I asked him what he liked to do for fun, and he didn’t understand what that meant. This broke my heart. How could a 10 year old boy not know what fun is. After a lot of explaining he told me that he liked to listen to music. This cheered me up because music is something important to me too. This is also something he can have forever. While we were working so many people were singing and it really helped make the day a little bit better. I think this experience was one of the most eye opening I have ever had. I really loved being able to help out Manuel and really feel what it was like to be a Haitian or Dominican in poverty.
Sarah – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Dominican Republic, 2013