Throughout our two weeks in Paraguay the 15 of us have been exposed to multiple levels of poverty, and every day I become more thankful for what I have back home in the States. I have an amazing family, a house with hot water 24/7, and I go to a wonderful school. As we drove to Santa Ana for the first time, I was shocked by what I saw. I felt guilty for having so much while these people had little more than houses made of tarps and thin wood. The neglect of care for the residents of Santa Ana is so evident, and hardly anything is being done about it. This morning I felt even guiltier for knowing I will be home in three days and no longer in Paraguay to offer a helping hand.
As I was working in the daycare watching the little kids play with old toys and draw with broken crayons, I knew I wanted to do something for them. Yes sending money and new toys is always an option, but these children need something more than that. Right before the kids sat down for lunch, an older girl ran in through the gate. She looked to be around nine years old, dressed in black pants that ended above her knees, flip flops, and a yellow and white striped camisole. She looked wet and freezing because of the rain and low temperature. In her arms was her little sister who I didn’t notice until the older girl removed what I thought was a blanket. She walked inside and dropped off her sister. That is when I noticed it was not a blanket covering the baby, but rather it was the girl’s jacket. She loved her little sister so much that rather than stay warm and dry herself, she made sure the young one was safe and comfortable. Right after seeing this I immediately knew what else I was to send back. I want to show and give the kids in both Santa Ana and Isla Pucú love from both their ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in the US. Rather than just donate blindly to the comedors and daycares, I want to continue my relationship with the little ones I’ve met here. They alone taught me that no matter your situation in life, you always have a reason to smile and find the joy in the simple things. This is a lesson that we are often told and taught, but it’s one we hardly apply in reality. If I can teach my community to use this lesson, I can maybe begin the long process of changing the world even though I am one person in a world of billions.
Leaving Paraguay will be extremely bittersweet, and I know that I can never fully repay all of the people who have taught me so much in the short two weeks here. But now my life’s goal to defy the odds and change the world is much stronger than it was ever before. Whether I choose to be in the Peace Corps and continue learning and serving, to be a writer who influences teens to reach out to those in need or to be a UN delegate fighting to fix poverty, I will strive to help in every way. Because of Paraguay, I want to stop at nothing until every child knows that someone in the world is fighting for them so they can have love, care, and hope from an international friend.
Charlotte G., Stoneridge School of the Sacred Heart