A Hero’s Perspective

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Througout the trip we are collecting stories from participants on their perspective and experiences. After all, I’d hate for you all to get bored with my writing! 🙂 The following blog was written by Justine.

Canada Day in A New York Minute

July 1st. It’s Canada Day. I kinda find it funny that I am leaving this country on a day I should be celebrating it. On a day when most people you ask couldn’t tell you how old Canada is, but could tell you exactly how many beers they had to celebrate it
with, I will find myself cramped, trying to fall asleep on a plane that is heading to Dominican Republic. In fact, right now I am sitting in a terminal in the NYC airport,
sipping coffee, typing out this note as I watch busy people connect with flights that will propel them forward to the next stop in their busy lives. A blur of faces and names that make-up compelling lives and stories. And it’s in this airport that I drink the worst coffee I have ever been stupid enough to spend money on. Never trust a thug with diamond earrings and a Rocaware ball cap to make you a decent hazelnut latte. And even though I can barely choke down this awful cup of java, it’s the very thing that has got me thinking. You see, it is reminding me of why I am in the airport to begin with.

On a day when most people are getting loaded, I’m loading my suitcases onto a plane, then to a bus to visit people I met a year ago in DR. It was a trip called Hero Holiday last year that rocked my world and changed my thinking and is in effect, changing me. It was the place where I actually met people who’s lives could not be ignored, who actually live in extreme poverty. The exploited and the abused. The ones who are trapped into forced labor just so they might be able to feed their children next week. People who have so little and yet are incredibly kind and thankful. People whose lives I realized have dignity. Some, who in the midst of living on nothing, have a faith that puts my own to shame. It was also the place where I joined with other young people who wanted to learn how to make a difference in their lives. Hero Holiday last summer was the time when I was able to finally see past my own hurts and seemingly major issues, and find purpose, passion and even revitalized faith where it was sorely needed.

Those beautiful Dominican people and the amazing Hero Holiday crew where the ones who helped me realize that I had a responsibility and also the ability to change the world. And looking back, I realize that it was not the more ‘glorious moments’ of say a hard day of work on building a school or feeding people who work in a dump, or digging a life giving water trench for the people of a sugar cane plantation that I learned this, but it was in the little things, the mundane and often FRUSTRATING things, like organizing a chaotic mountain of supplies and gifts into some kind of order for people to distribute the next morning at a clinic that I realized that the small steps to change are necessary and effective. A small step like informing and educating yourself on the issues.

So as I sat there with my coffee that I was regretting, I stopped by and found an article on the situation in Hati, the neighboring country of DR. It was here that I learned that many Haitians, who are poorest people in the Western hemisphere are so desperate to find work that they will pay a person who will guarantee them safe passage into DR with the promise of a good paying job.  But these poor and desperate people end up being trafficked into DR, robbed by those they trusted and find out no jobs are available to them. These people end up having to find illegal work in city dumps or sugar cane plantations where they will make less than $3 a day just to try and support their families. I was shocked to learn that often, just before sugar cane harvest season is over when they are supposed to be paid, some families are often deported back to Hati without warning. Other spend their entire lives working back breaking labor just so they and their children can survive.

It was then that I realized that the coffee I was drinking was sweetened by the sugar that was harvested by a ‘faceless’ victim of human trafficking and injustice that might very well meet in person tomorrow. A person who I may have helped build a school for last summer so their children could get an education and finally break the cycle of poverty. It was only a cup of coffee but I was starting to see how the world’s economics was playing out in it. And it made me all the more eager to go back to the Dominican to help finish the school we started, to start a new one and befriend those who live and work in the trash of a city that has refused them.

I realize that it’s only small things we are actually doing in DR, but it’s the awareness and actions you can take from home in your everyday life that will also make a difference. It things like choosing to buying ‘fair-trade’ products. It’s supporting and getting involved with groups that work with poor communities to help them become self-sufficient and organizations who are making a difference in legislature that will change government policies on trade and third-world debt. It’s refusing to see the problem of poverty and injustice as so large that it’s no use to try to do anything. I am only one person, but then again, so was Jesus or even Bono. And if there is anything that Jesus and Bono have shown me it’s that God’s heart is for the poor and God is with me if I am with the poor. So, I figure I got some good backing, even if it’s only me.

So here’s to this hideous coffee that I can’t finish and to a week in DR that will no doubt change and break me some more. I can’t wait.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 7th, 2007