From Monday, November 5th
I think that I’m appreciating our beach weekend even more today than I did during the trip. I am feeling quite recharged and refreshed. Lesson learned.
I had a good Spanish class this morning. I finished with Level 3 – tomorrow we will review and then I will attempt to pass the test sometime soon. Assuming I do (a risky choice) I will make a little progress into Level 4 this week.
After class I met the kids for lunch. Sonia, Lionardo, Isac, and Kevin (I received some corrections in spelling their names today) joined me. Ninoska had to stay outside and work. It was really hard to go inside, knowing she was out there, but the kids insisted on it and we agreed to bring her food afterwards.
Perhaps due to my rejuvenation I asked the kids lots of questions about their lives today. Somehow they understood my Spanish well enough to give me some answers. I found out that both fathers are present in their lives; a fact that surprised me as they had never previously mentioned them. One is a security guard and one sells things on the street near his mother’s sunglasses stand. Each family lives in its own house about a 40 minute bus ride from Metrocentro. There are more kids in each family than just the ones I have lunch with.
After a great lunch and ice cream I took the buses home. My first bus, the 119, was ridiculously crowded so I squeezed myself into the crowd for the 7-minute ride. Although I don’t like to be touched I’ve conceded that my personal-space requirement will rarely be met on the buses. As is often I found myself jostled around amongst the crowd. Many people got off at the stop before mine so I was able to claim a little more room.
At this time I realized that my phone was missing from my pocket. I looked around but I knew that the thief had likely just gotten off, and I did not have the heart to accuse the old grandmother next to me. I will admit that I was pretty mad for a bit. It’s not a big deal – I can get another phone for under $20 – but I think the concept hurt me more than losing the phone. I took some time to get myself together and now I am feeling fine about it. It’s just a phone. I am lucky to have one in the first place, and extremely lucky to have the resources to replace it so easily.
Back to the good stuff.
I was so glad to learn more about the kids. I was thinking on the way back from the beach of ways I can help. I came to the conclusion that helping 2 families should really be quite easy. I have been blessed beyond all measure, including with an amazingly supportive family and group of friends. Between my resources and others generosity I’m sure that something can be done to lift these two beautiful families to a better place in life. The problem is now figuring out what to do.
I’ve been interested in microfinance, in essence giving poor people access to small loans, ever since my good friend Kevin Newton introduced it to me last year. The idea has been quite successful in developing countries, allowing those in need to set up self-sustaining business projects. Why can’t I do something like that here with these two families? Really, it should be simple. Success depends on merely connecting the two parts of the equation – their need and access to resources. This would also provide a more long-term solution to their poverty.
I am going to get one of my bilingual friends to come one day so we can have a real conversation. I first want to see if there is a better school, preferably full-day, to which the kids can go. I also want to find out how I can help the parents. Getting them better jobs would be a much more effective solution than just giving them money.
These are just some thoughts that have been running through my mind recently. Fighting poverty on a global scale is understandably quite daunting. Even viewing the issue on a countrywide, citywide, or even block-wide basis is intimidating. Two families, though, seems like a reasonable endeavor.
Assuming this can be done, what impact really will be made? It’s just two families out of thousands. And what makes those families more deserving than others? While I haven’t heard these questions yet they are, I believe, worth having answers to. Yes, helping two out of thousands is not very “efficient” or even cost-effective. The thing to remember is that that we’re talking about people not statistics. Even if my entire four months here resulted in one person’s life improving slightly, I would consider it a success. To deem it a failure on account of not being worthwhile is, in effect, saying that my life is more valuable than those whom I’m here with.
I say all of this not in response to any criticism or questions I have encountered. I have received nothing but love and support from everyone I know, and for that I am beyond thankful. Instead I am speaking to myself, and my need to always maximize my efficiency. I figure if I put this out there in writing I will at least have a few people who can remind me that the issues at hand are people’s lives, not economics.