Esperanza Rising

“The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to.” – Marian Wright Edelman

This quote is so pertinent to my life right now – I read it on my roommate Bianca’s closet door the day after I returned from the Dominican Republic. It was another incredible experience that I have been so fortunate to have. I’m still struggling to put it into words, and the readjustment to daily life in the city has been a bit jarring.

Even though I have traveled to Latin America before, I had never seen something like the DR. Even the city we spent the weekend in, Santiago, seemed a bit more impoverished than cities like San Jose and Medellin, where my parents were born.

Santiago, Dominican Republic

We spent our first day doing a little bit of sightseeing to get acclimated, and then spent Sunday hiking and on the beach. I want to say the hike was amazing, but it was ridiculously hardcore. We all survived though — I climbed a mountain, and it was beautiful.

Cityscape and Mountains
Mofongo (a plantain dish)

After the weekend came the part we were all waiting for, meeting the kids. We traveled to Esperanza, in the northwest part of the DR, to volunteer at the Joan Rose Foundation. We fell in love right away, and the feeling was mutual. It was a great feeling, and we spent the week reading, doing math lessons, and playing. The time went by entirely too quickly. We also learned more about the poverty in the area we were in from the founder of the foundation, as well as some of the older students there. They even took us on a walking tour of their neighborhoods, which was really eye-opening.

I’m so glad I went on this journey (with a great group from Fordham), I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying to understand what I learned. I saw the sort of poverty that I had only seen in the news. The foundation doesn’t have electricity, and many of the students don’t have shoes and wear the same tattered clothing each day. But they always have smiles on their faces, because they’re survivors. I think I learned more from them, and hearing their stories, than they did from me in the classrooms.  There’s no truly reason why they don’t have shoes to wear to school, and I get to go to college and take photos of my outfits for fun. I’m so grateful for what I have, and I wish all the children the world.

I can’t wait to go back someday.

~ Sarah