The Wrong Place?

By Selena Maldonado 02.03.2013 blog

Millions of people want to help those who live in poverty, and some even go out and spend time with them in order to experience their way of life. This is all very nice and they do it with good intentions, however, they are usually looking with sad eyes in the wrong place.

Poverty defines people who struggle to find a bite to eat while living in terrible conditions. People are always giving money to charity, but they often overlook the most needy people and go straight to ones who should be left alone.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in class and watched Channel One News. It featured students who had gone on a journey in which they recorded their experiences in an attempt to show how the poor live. They mentioned what a terrible life the people live and how they suffered during their stay. Ironically, in my experience, they went to a place where the people are fairly rich. Those people live in an environment that surrounds them with a great abundance of vegetation, where they can simply go outside and grab fruits and vegetables if they’re hungry and go down to a stream and drink water. They can gather wood for a fire and have sturdy shelter, yet to those who would be considered wealthy in comparison, it looks worse than a shed. I don’t say this in order to “keep them in the gutter.” I say this because I’ve lived with people in these conditions and find it extremely unfair to see them classified as poor.

When I sat watching the report, I remembered the streams running down the mountains, full of enormous green trees, shrubs and other vegetation that engulf the view, taking your breath and leaving you in awe. My grandparents and many other of my relatives live there, and I have had the privilege of spending time living with them every summer and experiencing life in a rich environment with humble, “uncivilized” people. Unfortunately, as the years have gone by, the environment has changed dramatically due to outsiders’ interference attempting to “better the lives” of the people who live there.

When I was small, the road up the mountain to my grandparents’ home was a one-vehicle-at-a-time dirt road; it was so daunting that giving one look made any sane person automatically decide to walk rather than risk their lives driving, especially on a rainy day. My mom, however, would drive. On our way up, I would look towards the sky, but I was barely able to see it due to the gigantic branches from huge trees that descended from somewhere unknown down the side of the mountain. Because these trees produced fruits, the fruits would fall off the branches and smash at the impact against the ground, making the truck slip and slide on the extra slippery road. When I’d look towards the mountain, my view was cut short by the crops that were being grown by the people inhabiting the area.

If you knew where to look, you would see the trails that were used to get to places, including homes. When I’d arrive at my grandparents’ house, I’d sweat due to the heat. Since there was no such thing as electricity, no one even knew what an electric fan was. At night, oil filled cans with small rolls of bristles sticking out of them were lit and used as light sources, since candles were considered too expensive. My grandma would take a lit can and lead the way down a steep stairway made out of big rocks that led down to a small stream where other people were bathing and kids could be heard up above laughing and moving around as they made themselves comfy on a branch, eating fruit they cut from the tree.

That was less than seventeen years ago. If you were to go there today, you’d say I made the whole thing up.

Machinery, electricity, and medical assistance were sent in to improve the living conditions of the people, but it was not realized that these resources hurt these people due to to their interference with their simple lives. The dangerous road is now big enough for two vehicles and is cemented to keep vehicles from falling off. Because the roads were made bigger, the land that contained trails and was used to grow crops is gone, and the homes of the people now sit at the edge of the cliff. One can now see the sky, since the trees were cut down to allow power lines through.

What’s more, these power lines introduced technology, including video games and television, into the region, causing the disease known as “laziness,” which has almost fully taken over cities. Instead of climbing on trees eating fruit or swimming in the streams, kids now stay in their homes playing video games with fans turned up high.

As time goes on, more organizations are created to better the lives of the poor, but some people have learned to live in a barter system where money is not needed. In their attempts to help some people, these organizations sometimes overlook the people who truly need help. Some people in real need of help include the fishermen from San Fernando, Mexico, whose houses are made of cardboard — if they have a home at all — or the indigenous people of the mountains of Mexico, who have to go out every day to hunt rats in order to feed their families due to the environment’s lack of vegetation.

I understand that the filmmakers in Channel One’s “A Dollar a Day” report were trying to show the public how others live their daily lives with little or no money, but I felt like they belittled the people by portraying them as needy and incompetent. In reality they are skilled people, who had adapted to their surroundings, and are quite capable of being successful in their own way.

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