This week was very challenging, but also very rewarding. I was able to learn so much about poverty and about those experiencing poverty that I’ve never thought about before. One of the hardest things I learned this week is how little free time people have to spend with family and friends. There is always something to do. What do you do after you are done work for the day?  Typically, one would go home, make dinner, do a couple chores, and then relax until bedtime. What if simple things like cooking becomes a chore or a challenge?  The reality for some people is that they have to continue working hard as soon as they get home. They need to cook, some over an open fire, to make repairs to their homes, do yard work, laundry, and so much more. It’s crazy to think that after people work a 9 hour day in the sun in the fields, or rock picking, they have to come home and do more hard work. Back home, when I finish a day of work I come home and watch TV or sit and hangout with my family. Understanding this is also a reality for many working people back in Canada too, it made me realize just how lucky we are to have some of the luxuries at home that make those daily chores less stressful and time consuming.

No task is simple when living in these conditions. For example cooking is much simpler when we have a stove, countertop, and numerous cooking utensils at our reach, but for many people, and for us this past week, we were cooking over an open fire. It is hard to imagine that food can be an uncertainty in people’s lives. If it is raining, then the fire won’t start, which means you’re unable to make dinner for your family. Living in this uncertainty this week was a new concept for me. It made it very stressful and made me anxious every time we were about to cook. Throughout the week our timing with cooking food improved, as we always tried to get most of the cooking done before dark. It is amazing how much you can’t do once it starts to get dark. Again, it is a totally new concept as I have always lived with electricity.

This week has taught me so many things and I am beyond thankful to have gotten to experience it all. One of the largest lessons I learned is to never underestimate one person’s ability and strength. Working alongside locals this week and getting a taste of what their everyday lives showed me how strong people can be. While we were working alongside them we needed to take breaks, to drink water, and give our bodies a chance to stretch, but they do not take these breaks and continue working for long periods of time. They know what they need to do to provide for their families and they are willing to do it. One of my favourite moments this week was when we were rock picking on Friday. After we worked for about 5 hours in the sun, we were done picking but now needed to bring up all the bags of rocks. At this point the workers became less serious about getting as many rocks as they could and starting joking around with each other and talking more with us. It was nice to see that even after a long workday they were able to joke with each other and try to make their days more enjoyable.

I have found a greater respect for those experiencing poverty, especially those we were able to work alongside.  I am very grateful we had this opportunity to try and understand some of the daily challenges they face. We learned so much this week about our group, poverty, and ourselves in general. 

– Danica, Live Different Academy Student 2015

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