Wednesday, February 10, 2010

School Zone, Part 3

This is my last post form Cochabamba and I have only an hour before I leave for my last shift at the orphanage. I appreciate all the kind words and special thanks to those of you for donations for diapers for the care of these lovely children.

On that note, a blogger wrote me and asked "Is there a solution to poverty?" The question, through its simplicity, struck a chord in me. I have already seen so much need and I haven't even been to Tanzania, Jamaica, nor the Navajo Nation yet. I feel overwhelmed already when I think of the problem of insufficient water, sanitation, medicine, food and clothing I've seen so far. It is hard to believe in the liklihood of a solution to this human condition, a fate which is faced daily by the overwhelming majority of people on this planet.
Nonetheless, it is so much more encouraging and promising to look at the grains of sand rather than the whole beach. The above photos, the last in the series of a rural school that I visited and posted about the last two days, provides a rich example.
The top picture, of some nicely dressed girls leaving school through a gate with no wall. The wall has tumbled and will require resources from already totally impoverished community members before it can be rebuilt. In the meantime local farmers take shifts at the gate to ensure the safety of the school. I have witnessed on this trip strong community involvement by those who seemingly can least afford the time.
The second photo is of three unfinished classrooms built entirely by donations and labor provided by Amizade college student volunteers in conjunction with local masons. Each room still needs the installation of a corrugated roof which cost $1500.00 a piece before the space can be used. The project started a few years ago, but has floundered due to lack of funds. The economic downturn in the U.S. has seriously curtailed the number of students able to participate in oversea's programs and reduced the ability of philanthropic organizations to raise nominal money.
The last photo clarifies what sufficient resources and international cooperation can accomplish to improve the quality of life in this region. I taught English to these lovely, eager, intelligent children the other day in one of these classrooms built through Amizade. This "friendship" is a commodity that America does well to export. It is more valuable because it is genuine. At a time, in a world fraught with fear and negativity, these acts of random kindness bring a positive message to those who, not by their own actions, but by historical coincidence, have found themselves in a labyrinth of poverty. It is appreciated by the people beyond words.


  1. Oh Lee...this is such a powerful post! "The labyrinth of poverty" is a phrase I may just steal from you. I never thought of describing it that way, but having experienced it firsthand I can't even begin to tell you how very true that is, because it really *IS* a labyrinth. Every new limitation exacerbates the effects of every previous limitation, so that you end up with a domino effect. And when you confront the totality of it, the whole tangled mess, it really does feel like a labyrinth when you try to find your way out of it. Every promising exit turns out to be just another dead end.

    It's impossible to confront the blogger's question, "Is there a solution to poverty?" meaning global poverty, without feeling anything but total impotence and despair, leading to a sense of total paralysis. The question is too big, too overwhelming, and can't be dealt with on an individual level or small group level--only at the national and global level.

    Re " is so much more encouraging and promising to look at the grains of sand rather than the whole beach." Right! Approaching the problem on a grain-by-grain basis is the only way an individual can possibly deal with it that doesn't lead to a sense of total futility and paralysis. Global poverty has to be addressed at the global level. But buiding the roofs for those three unfinished classrooms at that ONE school in Bolivia? Not all the schools in Bolivia, but just that one. That's only $4500, and that's actually do-able. I could probably raise that amount or at least a good chunk of it just by passing the hat among my family and friends. Not all of them are poor by a long way--as a matter of fact, most of them aren't.

    I think you see what I'm getting at here: It's Bush 41's "thousand points of light," which he was trying to sell as a substitute for government action and government funding. That's totally wrong. Private charities can never operate on that scale and shouldn't be expected to, especially not when their resources depend upon an American population in the throes of a recession. But the idea isn't invalid in itself.

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  3. Sorry, I had too many typos. As Raksha said, you've used several very powerful phrases in this post, which is an excellent piece. I think that awareness is certainly one of the cornerstones. If you hadn't written these blog posts and exposed a group of us to this bit of the world and its people, we would not have known specifically where help might be given.

    Let's just say that one of us inherited a chunk of money, or knew someone looking for a charity to give to. The school and the orphanage might become the recipient. In fact, several people HAVE given something because of this blog. As the world becomes (hopefully) less insular and develops more of a consciousness that we're in this together, hopefully things will change. I know that donations aren't the whole story, but it's part of the sand we're looking at today.

  4. The ladies have said it all so I shan't paraphrase them.