My last day at my internship at La Fundación América Solidaria was one that I could never forget. It was not only my last day at the foundation but it was the goodbye ceremony for the professional volunteers that would start their service in Chile, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. I didn´t have much time to spend with them during their two week orientation, but I met them and read impressive testimonies of current and past volunteers. Although it may seem like their contribution is like drops of water in an ocean, they really do make a great impact in the communities they are in. I realized here that they were fulfilling a dream that I have long desired to live; to dedicate myself and work directly with those in need.
Sebastian, the director of the foundation, made a speech about a topic that I had been thinking about prior to this ceremony, however he articulated it more eloquently than I ever could have. He compared all of the countries Latin America and the Caribbean to a large community; there are some who are fortunate and the others? Not so much. Those who have risen to the top have, generally and not exclusively, worked very hard to get where they are. This is where the fork in the road forms: one could take into account all of the hard work and feel justified to live as everyone else at that level or one could take the path to help those around him/her to reach that same point.
The people who have chosen to go down the latter path, like the volunteers, would be acting more as a family than just neighbors. I believe that the whole world is interconnected and one large community, a family even. All of the people that constitute it should be treated as one and the same and have equal opportunities. Unfortunately this does not happen, nor do all people think this way. Suffering persists in our world and it may never be eradicated, however the scale of suffering can be reduced and opportunities can be made.
I heard what Sebastian had to say and I thought of myself and my own story which I had been reflecting on during my last weeks at the foundation. I worked on the foundation’s projects in Haiti and after all of the statistics of a country that ranks as the third poorest nation on the planet settled in, I understood that they reflected real people and not a whole bunch of numbers attached to words. My meager upbringing seemed like a basket of wealth in comparison. He mentioned that the impoverished areas in other parts of Latin America have 50% less than those living in similar areas in Chile. How much would it be if we compared this to the ‘’poor’’ areas in the States or any other more developed country for that matter? What is the difference between me and these people?
I ask myself these questions, among others, and one of the main differences is that I had the opportunity to take advantage of what I had. My parents are immigrants to this country who raised their children in a city that was infested with drugs, addicts, high rates of violence and murder, etc. We struggled, but they invested in me and I was the only one in my family to take that investment seriously. My parents worked very hard to send me to private schools to get a better education in hopes to be accepted into a university. I accomplished this goal. I was the first and only to graduate high school and I will be the first to earn a college degree.
Now, I could feel justified to live a good life according to the standards of my own society, make a ton of money, and forget my past and the rest of the people in the world who live in conditions that I could never even imagine living under. There’s just one thing though, there has always been something inside me that has driven me to give back and serve. Was it my upbringing, exposure to religious teachings, my observations or rational? Most likely it was all of these things together that have made me believe that I would be unhappy living in a fairy land that only exists thanks to my imagination where I pretend everything is fine and dandy.
This closing ceremony América Solidaria really brought a lot of things together about the foundation and my work there in general. Just as all of the parts in a system, we all have a role to play in life. I have had the luxury to truly live and enjoy life, most importantly I have the luxury of choosing my own role through the opportunities that I am given. I felt as if I had done my part in the foundation, but I have a larger goal that I am working toward. It may seem broad at first, but just as writing an essay it always starts off like that then becomes more detailed. This task that I have set out for myself will require a lot of work and dedication, but I am willing and determined to reach and accomplish it even if it takes a whole lifetime. I refuse to settle and be happy with what I have now. Life is a journey and I have chosen to follow the path of helping those around me to overcome some of the hurdles that stop us from attaining a better standard of living.
The hard part is yet to come.