The summer of my sophomore year of high school I was given the opportunity to go on a trip to Reynosa, Mexico with my church through the mission organization Sons of Salvation, and I jumped at the chance right away. We took a ten day trip to Children’s Haven International, a children’s refuge. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the children and learned a lot from that experience, however, there was something that touched my heart even more: taking a tour of the colonias.
The colonias are the most poverty stricken areas of Reynosa. The people there have no money and live off of almost nothing. I had seen pictures of places such as this, but to see the people and the places they lived in first hand was a whole different experience. Nothing could ever describe the feeling I experienced seeing the colonias, it is something that can only be comprehended by actually seeing what these people have to do to simply survive.
When we pulled up to the colonia I was apprehensive about what I was about to witness. As we walked through the neighborhood it was almost like I was walking on to a movie set. I felt like it wasn’t real. There were no houses, by our definition of the term. Their shelters were built out of everything from old tarps to wooden pallets and scrap metal. Garbage was everywhere; the place they were living on in fact used to be a landfill. The conditions were horrendous.
As we walked you would see people standing around their shelters and children running through the dirt streets. I expected the people to look dismal and sad, but to my surprise they weren’t. When I looked at them I didn’t see sadness, but instead hope and optimism. This amazed me.
Soon we reached a river. But this was not just any river; this river separated Mexico from the United States, poverty from riches, despair from hope. Right across the river was freedom for these people and they could see it every day. Our tour guide told us that many people try and swim across the river to America, to the hope of new beginnings. Once one has seen the conditions these people endure and how unbelievably close they are to the border, it is sad to realize that most of the people in the colonias will probably never set foot on the other side of the river.
As we were leaving, the leaders asked what we thought about what we had seen and how it affected us. At the time I didn’t really know because it was so much to take in. Now as I look back, I know the answers to these questions. Seeing the colonias definitely helped me gain a different perspective on life. After seeing how little some people have, I realized all the things I take for granted. As I go on with my life, living in a comfortable house, with a good education, I must try to remember that these things are valuable. Even though I may not always want to clean my house or take a test in school, these are opportunities that I have been given. Some can only dream about such things. Going on this trip to Reynosa is a memory that has had an amazing impact on my life, and has taught me to be grateful for all the wonderful things that have been laid out before me. As I go through life I am now more aware of how blessed I truly am.
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