Abstractions

7 May

We managed to find our way back to the States and I’m finally home.  Mojo, my Chihuahua, won’t stop licking me and my family is happy I have returned.  While ecstatic to see everyone and to be surrounded by my own things, my sense of melancholy is worse.

Prior to my visit to Jinotega, my many hours of volunteer work was already tremendously fulfilling — but now CdA is real to me.  I’ve laughed with the employees, I’ve played with our students, and I’ve walked the streets of the community we serve.  I have been in the homes of the very girls I hope will finish their educations.  In short: the abstraction of who I work for is gone.

In many ways, poverty is a foreign concept for those of us in the U.S.  Don’t get me wrong — I know there is great poverty here.  I’ve seen it both at home in Southern California and in other parts of the country.  I’ve studied poverty, as well — my two degrees in sociology offering plenty of statistics on the problem.  Often, however, poverty in the States is often offset by surrounding affluence.  When the majority of a community is middle-class, it’s harder to connect with those who fall below it.  What’s most sad — we often hide the impoverished from view and blame them for their plight.

In Jinotega, though, the poverty is overwhelming — certainly greater than I could have imagined.  Around every corner there are homes partially constructed with scraps of cardboard and rusted metal.  Dirt floors.  Termites, a very serious problem in the tropics, destroy every inch of wood with a sick sense of urgency.  Large families live in tiny shacks and have minimal amounts of food, often eating only rice and beans for months.  Sometimes is just rice.  Some don’t have toilet facilities and defecate in their yards.  The list goes on.

I think of my time as a student and consider the contrast between my life and that of the young women in CdA’s program.  We (those of us who run CdA) constantly wonder what more we should require of our kids, but you’ve got to wonder … how can students study in this environment?  How can our organization expect students to do well in class and maintain good grades?

The scarier question is: what happens if we don’t?

When it comes down to it, CdA may be the only driving force these girls have to continue in school.  When you spend your days considering where your next meal with come from, the importance of literacy and education tend to be lost.  I can’t help but feel that “big picture thinking” is for those of us with full bellies.

Ugh.

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