March 14, 2014
Wow. As I am writing this I am lying on my mattress on the floor, listening to music and eating plantain chips. Our group had a meeting about transitioning last night and my head has been spinning ever since. I can’t believe that the downhill of my senior project has begun. It feels like I have been here for months, but at the same time, I feel like I could stay here forever. The simplicity of life here is going to be impossible to forget. I have come to love when the power randomly goes out and when a soccer ball or uniform is somebody’s most prized possession. I am going to miss relying on only my feet for transportation, and not having to worry about what I look like to other people. I feel comfortable here, like there is always somebody looking out for me, just because I am a human being. I love being forced to say “hi” to every person I pass on the street, or hearing cars honk as I walk to school, just because people are so friendly. I will miss being called “obroni” even though I hate it. I will miss being able to buy Fanta in a reused soda bottle for $0.40 or a loaf of bread for $0.80. I’m going to miss being expected to do service every afternoon, no matter how hot it is outside. But most of all, I will miss the kids. Even if some of them can get on my nerves, I feel so much compassion for them. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be born here, into a family of who knows how many people, and be expected to fight my way out of poverty. Through all of their struggles, I still see their smiling faces getting off the bus in the morning, see the accomplishment in their eyes when they finish reading a page of a book, or their gigantic smiles when they get a 100% mark. They are so dedicated to education. To getting out and making a life for themselves. I will never look at a student the same way again. I now know what commitment to school really looks like. It means waking up at the crack of dawn to walk to your bus stop, it means shouting “keep quiet” every five seconds to be able to hear what your teacher is saying, or spending $75 (possibly all you have) a year for your education. One of the group members brought something up that has stuck with me. I will never be able to look at anything that costs $75 again without thinking about what a year’s education could do for a child. There is no better way to spend your money. Empowering a child with knowledge is unbeatable. With my yearly tuition at Westtown, I could pay for the tuitions of more than 600 students at Heritage Academy. I will never look at my belongings the same way. I will never take what I have for granted again. I know that I will feel sick when I come home to a room full of things I don’t need, with a fancy mattress and a closet full of clothing and shoes. I will never again think that I don’t have enough. If I have clothes on my back, a roof to sleep under, and an education, I have more than enough to live a good life.
I will never forget this experience. A life-changing experience is an understatement of my time here. I plan to change many lives with the experience I have gained here. My life has changed forever. All because of the smiles I see on the kids faces every day.