Several times I have sat down to make a blog entry, to take advantage of this means of communication to tell a story; the story of several years, the story of thousands of lives, the story of countless struggle, the story of those who persevered and believed enough to overcome. Although it seems a simple act, it has taken more than a couple minutes and thoughts to express, to communicate, everything I was able to witness in these last few days. The story that I share with you is one that encompasses a long, grueling history, and one that is for sure to have an extensive and exhausting future. This is a story in which the dictating problem has no concrete solution. We don’t know if this story will have a happy ending, or any ending at all for that matter. All we can do is use everything that we have been given to work in order to pass along the opportunity that we have enjoyed since birth, to those who have never been given such a chance. I want my writing, this post, to do justice to not only the people of El Basurero and the workers of Casa Del Alfarero, but also to the greater mission, the overall goal…to provide opportunity.
I have visited Guatemala two times in the past, once in 2007 with my family and once in 2010 on my own. However, the mass poverty that plagues the nation is not something that I, a Fairfax County native, will ever be able to forget. On a similar note, the people of Guatemala will always have a special place in my heart and mind. Let me tell you, when I came to Guatemala in 2010 on my own, with very little Spanish speaking ability, and naïve/sheltered mindset, I probably was not the most joyful person to be around. (and that’s an extreme understatement) But I can say with 100% confidence, with every fiber of my being, that my attitude turned around real fast thanks to the people of Guatemala. Never in my life was I able to spend time with better, more quality people who were willing to put forth every effort to make sure that I was having a great time, that I was able to be exposed to their fantastic culture, even though I did not deserve such wonderful treatment. One of the several things that strikes me about Guatemalans is their distinct ability to appreciate life, to have fun no matter where they are or what is going on. Needless to say, I had the trip of a lifetime in 2010! And thanks to the love of Guatemalan people, my life was changed. I made a promise to myself that I would return and try and pay the endless debt that I owe to these people. I came to Guatemala for a reason, these people without a doubt made me a better person, and I will always be more than thankful.
…Which brings me to now, May 24, 2012. We are here. We made it! Our ideas and hard work all year have turned into actions, and our actions hopefully will make some sort of difference, no matter how small. I arrived in Guatemala City on Monday and the first thing I was able to do upon arriving at Casa Del Alfarero was drive out to the overlook of the trash dump with Katie C. Pictures do not even come close to encompassing what we saw. Hundreds of people walking down to the dump, hundreds more already there scavenging, trucks driving through to crush the existing trash and to drop off more…all barely missing the people who were down there. Talking with Laura, our helper from Casa, we were informed that about 11,000 people try to make a living from the dump, and living in the surrounding “neighborhoods” (for lack of better word). As the trucks drove into the dump, we took notice that some trucks seemed to be more popular than others. More people swarmed around some trucks, and Katie C. and I did not understand…all of the trash trucks were the same right, I mean it’s all the same trash… wrong. Laura informed us that the people know which trucks come from which zones, and the richer zones provided better trash. That idea sickens me…
The next thing we were able to do was go on a house visit in the middle of the barrio. The house was crunched in the middle of several others, with a dirt floor and tin walls. There were two beds, a makeshift kitchen, and what looked like piles of junk. The woman runs her own sewing business, but lacks a proper sewing machine and does not have the means to buy one. She has one child of her own, but has taken in several more under her care. As she explained her living situation, I was astonished by the things she was telling us so matter of factly… So casually. She shared with us that four of the children under her care were without birth certificates; they didn’t even know when their birthdays were. Without birth certificates, the children are unable to enroll in school.
As the day progressed, we were able to do some English and business classes to those who had previously signed up. Before leaving for Guatemala, I was very nervous about giving these classes. I did not think I was even close to being qualified to teach people about business. I didn’t think the lessons that we had planned were near advanced enough to do any good. I was very wrong, the women taking our classes have such limited business knowledge (most only have a fourth grade education) , that our lectures are able to do some good. We are currently planning for next week’s lectures as well as compiling a basic business book to distribute after our classes are over.
We have much work ahead of us, but I am honored and blessed to be a part of this mission. I hope that something that we are able to do, maybe some knowledge we are able to share, will benefit someone in some way.
Until next post,
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