This post is a little overdue as I am writing about my eye-opening Spring Break which I got home from last Sunday. I and eleven other JMU students (well, one was a staff member) traveled down to Trujillo, Peru for an Alternative Spring Break trip for a week. Peru 109 was the volunteer agency that we worked through. We all had an incredible experience as we met unforgettable people, participated in fun activities such as surfing and sandboarding, and learned about a new country and culture. The most memorable and meaningful part of the trip was the reason we came in the first place, our work with the primary school, “Senor De Los Milagros”.
In the morning we would play with the children (color, blow bubbles, dance, talk to them, play games) and hand out donations. Then as the day progressed the children would slowly leave and more of us would start doing little construction projects on the school. This school and it’s owners (six siblings living together continuing to run the school their parents started) really only had concrete walls, some desks, chairs, and tables. Other than that their resources were next to nothing. This knowledge alone pulled at my heart as I had never felt so privileged before when I compared myself next to these children. We were lucky enough to be able to actually visit one of the communities 30 minutes up the hill behind the school where many of the children live. These people’s houses were the size of my room. They were either made of mud bricks or usually straw and plastic and whatever else they could find. There was trash everywhere outside and inside. We had the opportunity to go inside one woman’s “house” to take a look around. I walked in with 3 other students and while catching whiffs of the urine soaked clothes hung right in front of me on the clothesline by the entrance I looked around the room dimly lit by the sunshine peaking through a small window in the corner. There were two beds across the room that had tattered clothes, blankets, and an assortment of trash piled on them. The “mattresses” were yellow foam blocks with mold and insects crawling out of the many holes. Flies were swarming around us. Then I noticed my friend next to me was waving at something. I looked closer over at the bed and realized there was a small boy waking up from a nap. He had just blended in with all the junk on the bed to me before. It was one of the most defying moments of that trip and of my life. When I saw that boy it suddenly hit me that we were standing in his home. This shack was were he was growing up, where he was being raised, where he was spending every day of his life. If he wasn’t inside he was outside walking around in trash and the worst part, probably not going to school. By having a limited education and little resources this boy was most likely never going to get out of this cycle of poverty and injustice. Many of the children that live in this community in Esperanza were born without any documents so they basically don’t exist to the government and therefore cannot go to public school. The school that our group was working with was an alternative for those children. This school accepted anyone and everyone for free. They obviously have very little funding and they are struggling to continue running. Our job that day was to spread the word about the school to the people in Esperanza and our job that week was to help it’s construction and donate any resources we could.
I couldn’t help but think of my upcoming TFA experience and how I am going to apply what I saw and learned on my ASB trip. It really reminded me that I’m most likely going to have students that come from poverty and struggling families. I am not sure exactly how poor the conditions of my district will be, but either way that visit gave me a really powerful insight into what so many people in our world live through. I know it will always be in the back of my mind when I teach and inspire me to understand and go above and beyond for the students I serve. We all really can make a difference and create a ripple effect.
I am even more excited to teach after having been to Trujillo and working with that school. The owners and the ninos gave us so much more than we gave them and the whole week just woke up my soul and made me feel like I was actually living. I felt so fulfilled and rewarded and I hope to experience that feeling again and again and again for the next two years.