Outstretched as far as the eye could see, stood a sea of colorful little shanties dotting the hillside like confetti. Each one represented a family much like my own; one with hopes and dreams of a brighter tomorrow. This was the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and the impoverished slums extended further than any human hand might hope to reach.
Following my trip to Honduras, my eyes were opened to the immense poverty facing Latin America and much of the world. The vast majority of the community laid waste in a state of detriment, more poverty than I had seen in my entire life. Yet despite their economic deficiency, this is a country of people abundantly rich in culture, beauty and pride.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
In that moment, I became intensely aware of the fortune I had been blessed with to have been born in the United States to a family with the financial means to provide me with the comforts of a stable home and a sound education.
Being of Hispanic background, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Mexico. I have been taught to value diversity and to empathize with those not as fortunate with myself. However, I had never put a name and a face to poverty as I would that very day.
As we approached the village, we were met by the stares of locals wondering, "Who are these foreigners and why are they here?" On foot, we meandered down the winding, dusty road leading to the church, the heart of this fragile community. We were escorted by an armed guard to the home of a particularly needy family. I was appalled by the cramped, squalid living conditions of the family residing there. Twelve people were living in this tiny home, a place void of running water, electricity and the common amenities we take for granted. It was here that I met Gerson, a ten-year-old boy with a beaming smile and a twinkle of light in his eyes. I knew that by the grace of my own fortune, I had been led to this very place and that I needed to do something to help.
Through an organization that bases community aid through the local church, we were able to designate funds to ensure that he has basic healthcare, nutritious meals and is being provided with an education. In addition, we continue to communicate with him through letters and photos. Ironically, not only have these letters given words of encouragement to Gerson, but his letters have shown me the perspective of a child who must contend with deplorable conditions every day, yet remains optimistic for the future. I have come to understand that all people have a story that deserves to be told and a voice with which to tell it. In the children’s story, “Horton Hears a Who!” we are enlightened by the words of Dr. Seuss: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
A question we must ask ourselves is this: What can we, who have been blessed so abundantly, do to bring optimism and transform a world in need? We must bridge the gap dividing the rich and poor; we must initiate hope in those who do not have the means to help themselves. Although we cannot solve the problem alone, each of us can generate change by affecting one life, one day, one dollar, one heart at a time.
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