In a community where families have next to nothing in terms of material wealth, any possession has a big effect. An extra shirt could mean getting to go to school in clean clothes. An extra chicken could combat malnutrition. An extra toy—maybe some bubbles or a doll—could bring hours upon hours of fun.
This trend applies in Panimache, where we visited today. When we arrived, we exited the car and entered into a sheet of fog. It was see-your-breath cold outside. As we walked and shivered, we passed wooden house after wooden house, each completely incapable of keeping its inhabitants warm. Most fathers here work in fields for large companies with minimum pay, but only about three times a week because there isn’t enough work to go around. Nobody in this village continues education beyond sixth grade. The cost of the books and other expenses is just too much. This is a community where families have next to nothing in terms of material wealth.
In a community where families have next to nothing in terms of material wealth, any possession has a big effect. Crackers could keep a child from going home hungry and every minute in school is precious, since each student has a limited number of days there. How do you thank the school community, who hasn’t enough to properly feed its own students, when it offers you crackers as a gift? How do you thank the school community, who has a very finite amount of time to educate its kids, when it allows you to spend more than an hour interacting with students so that you can get to know a little more about them? There really are no words to express appreciation for such a sacrifice.
This life differs so drastically from my life back home, where gifted crackers would be added to a pantry full of food, and a school morning spent on something nonacademic—maybe a field trip to the movies—wouldn’t amount to much in the larger scheme of my 16+ years of education. To see a village with people who share and appreciate the little that they do have opened my eyes to a different world. One where, hopefully, many little possessions will find themselves, and have a big effect on these very deserving, hardworking, and kind people.