We did a lot today. We spent the morning session for each of us to talk about our backgrounds and interest in human rights and how that led us to joining this trip. We started the day off with three really interesting words, courtesy of Rachel, our model Person of the Day. One of the words is German, apparently, and I think it is really fitting for this trip.
It is supposed to mean the capital e “E”xperiences that we feel most deeply and that matters most to us in our lives. I think this program will bring about many experiences like this. Moments that we can reflect on after the program is over, maybe 6 months out, maybe 6 years out.
Here are some moments and quotes that I jotted down and wanted to remember:
Elshe (? Sorry if I spelled your name wrong…) said that she had good intentions but bad outcomes when she was 17 years old and started a microfinance non profit organization in Dominican Republic, which failed miserably. I learned about microfinance last year in my PJHC courses at Rice. To hear from someone who had actually started one, saw it fail, took personal responsibility for it, and went back to witness how a third party with good intentions had torn a community apart for years to come made it so real for me.
Julia joked about how it is easy for privileged or rich persons to go abroad, see poverty, be “enlightened,” then check it off our lists. She said we need to be mindful to make good change. Ain’t that the truth.
That reminded me of a moment during my internship with Partners In Education Roatan, a grassroots educational nonprofit in Roatan, Honduras. I was in charge of creating hands-on basic science lessons and activities. Using simple materials like a liter soda bottle, some straws, balloons, and tape, I made a preliminary lung model. The problem is, your esophagus turns into two bronchi for your lungs. But for my model, to split one straw into two tubes that still delivered air into two separate balloons representing your two lungs was kind of tricky, so I just had two straws taped together as one esophagus instead that branched out into the two bronchi. When I showed it to my supervisor, she was very adamant that I correct that mistake in my lung model. But it would be way harder to make not only for me, but for the kids to replicate the model in their science activity. My supervisor then told me something I overlooked: the model I make may be the only lung model these kids will ever see, so yes, it should be anatomically correct.
What she said hit me pretty hard. When I made the lung model in school it was a cutesy science project, and even with the very little interest I have in science, I have been fortunate enough to have the privilege to see models of the lung over and over again in various contexts and time. So if I saw my first lung model, I would be fine with it because I knew that oh yeah, it really should be one esophagus and two bronchi, but it is a simple science crafts project, so it’s understandable. But some students do not have the privilege to learn about the lungs over and over again and the resources to see a correct diagram of the lungs over and over again. All of a sudden, my simple lung model wasn’t so insignificant anymore. So I redid the model, and here is a picture of the final product. It is nowhere near perfect, but I am pretty proud of it because I did something right for once, and I was mindful about it.
Annie spoke about 5th graders in America who know nothing about Iraq and the Iraqi people, so the only drawings they can produce of Iraq are images of war as opposed to portrayals of other humans. She then started an initiative to connect Iraqi 5th graders with American 5th graders through short Skype sessions during class time, which was successful, but then she came into contact with many non-profit professionals who just kept shoving her their business cards and wanted one of hers back in return, and it really disenchanted her from that aspect of doing good things.
Meaghan said since she was young she has always had the “social justice bug.” I think all of us on this program have that bug, and what a wonderful bug it is, because it keeps pushing us and motivating us to learn more and do more.
Brie joked about herself as a “classic case of going to a liberal arts school and coming back feminist and vegan.” Lulz. Classic but not necessarily bad, I’d say. I do not attend a liberal arts school, but I did come home from college a feminist!
Mary Jones explained the conflicting ideologies of her parents – her conservative Texan father and her progressive mother, and in conclusion, she’s “just confused ALL the time.” I think this trip will confuse us all, but in a good way.
Michael talked about how his major is international studies, I believe. He said a professor handed one of his papers back with the mark “Not graded,” which greatly perplexed him. The professor said the problem with his paper was that there was no love in it, so he will not grade it until Michael submits a revised version written with love. Michael said, “so I’m trying to convey love everywhere.” Well, that’s a pretty awesome reason to be here on this trip!
Ray explained how she is enthusiastic, passionate, and optimistic about people, and she felt like she sounded like a naïve 11 year old. I think it is rare indeed to be an adult in this world and still believe in the magic of this world and of humanity like a child does. It is very precious.
Travis said an important conversation that helped him begin to realize the intersection between his three major academic interests happened in an ice cream shop, because “ice cream is my vice, but that’s everyone’s vice!” Haha, we sure love sweets.
Amanda said she was always bothered by how privileged she was compared to many others in the world. She said emphatically, “after 20 years and 4 therapists!” She still can’t wrap her mind around that issue. A dilemma we often wrestle with indeed.
Peter said he used to play with the inner city low income Black kids that went to his dad’s karate school when he was young. He wanted to play cops and robbers but a kid wanted to play bloods and crips. Realities are so different and harsh for people, and children are very perceptive to the aggregated effects of social inequality.
Padmini said a nonprofit agency she once submitted a grant application to a few days before 9/11 happened luckily survived the tragedy and ended up calling her up months later. She was so surprised and happy about their survival, to which the lady from the agency said, “no, we’re a non-profit we NEVER get there before 10 a.m.!” What a blessing in disguise~
Tricia ended our discussion quoting MLK from Day 1’s speech on why he opposed the Vietnam War. “Silence is betrayal.” When we are silent about injustices, we betray those who are suffering.
We are supposed to visit the U.N. headquarters on Day 3, but with the snow storm it may not happen. I hope we get to go, because it is an amazing opportunity!