El Porvenir, Baja California, Mexico. It's a small, poor town. A town with dirt roads and dilapidated houses, a town where it is more common to see a horse coming down the street rather than a car. There are more stray dogs than there are cows. There are two churches, one Catholic and one Christian. There is a tiny school and a park with broken slides. There is also one orphanage, "Ninos de Baja." This dusty village has been the destination for a group of high school students from a small northern California church for the last twelve years, and in March 2011, I was fortunate enough to be one of these students.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
At four in the morning on the first day of our spring break, my sister and I woke up and met our youth group to travel the fourteen hours to El Porvenir. When I left for Mexico, I expected to enjoy a fun week with my friends and have lots of laughs while working hard and learning a little more about my faith, and I wasn't disappointed. But it was so much more than just that. In Mexico, I discovered what true poverty was like. I saw the children walking to school who stopped by and dug through our trash for a meal. I saw the crowded orphanage and how the children had no one and nothing of their own. I saw the teenagers coming to play with our balloons just like the elementary school kids were, because they had nothing else to do. And throughout all of this emptiness, I saw people living, and laughing, and enjoying what they were given. Not asking for more, but being thankful for what they had.
I realized how much I have here in America. A family, a home, food. It never seemed like so much until I saw what life was like without the things I take for granted every single day. This week changed me. I'll never forget Christopher's desire to constantly attack people, or Leti's tongue-sticking out while playing tag, or shy little Maria just wanting to feed us with her plastic food.
It's funny. We went down there to help others, by building walls and pouring cement, painting rooms and placing water pipes in the ground. But I think that in the end, the people of El Porvenir helped us. They showed us how to be content when we have nothing, a lesson that lasts for a lifetime.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.