It’s one thing
to hear about poverty, but it’s another to see it firsthand. We’ve
all seen the commercials on TV and feel sad while they’re on, but
then the commercial ends and we continue on with our lives. When we
pass a homeless person on the street, we quickly look away and try
our best not to make eye contact. Around the holiday season, we
donate a few dollars at checkout at the supermarket, or give a couple
cans of beans to a local food drive and, for us, that makes up for
the rest of the year when we try our best to forget about the
millions of people who live in poverty.
In October of
2016, after graduating high school, I immersed myself in a town where
poverty was impossible to avoid; you could see it in every corner,
every house, on every child’s face. My time working at Fundacion
Niños del Arco Iris (Children of the Rainbow Foundation) in
Urubamba, Peru allowed me to see the truth behind poverty. During my
time, first a volunteer and then as an official employee at the
Dutch-Peruvian foundation, I had the opportunity to be involved in
different aspects that run such big, important entity. I taught
English to both children and adults, helped design the foundation’s
website in both English and Spanish, met and created bonds with all
types of people, and much more, all while learning about myself and
the world around me.
I was constantly
challenged by the physical work itself, but mostly by the emotional
aspect of things; this was not your typical job where you clock out
at 4:45 on the dot and go about your life. In order to excel and
truly have a meaningful purpose in your work, you had to first create
a bond with the children and love them for who they are. After that
love and trust has been established, then your work can really begin.
It didn’t matter if it was a weekday or 6 AM on a Sunday, you had to
be ready and willing to drop anything for someone who needed you. If
you really loved your job, like I did, it was an honor to do so.
At the end of
2018, with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat, I left Urubamba
and all of the amazing people I had grown to love and headed back
home to New York. Less than a month into settling back into life
here, I was accepted at Iona College and began going to college
immediately. Now, as a college freshman, I am motivated to pursue my
degree in social sciences so that one day I can open up a center of
my own and make a bigger, more significant impact in people’s lives.
Whenever I go through a difficult moment and need strength, all I
have to do is think of the beautiful children in Urubamba who changed
my life forever.