On the second day we visited the Oaxacan city dump to meet the people who live there. A few years ago, Simply Smiles built stable homes for families that were living off the trash. Today we maintain our relationship with the residents to remind both them and ourselves that Simply Smiles will always provide support. Despite the toxic environment that they live in, they have fostered a strong community that is representative of the name they chose for their main road, Calle de Progreso (Street of Progress). When we returned that night to the Center of Operations, we all shared our feelings.
Frustrated- We felt frustrated that the government never fully commits to helping these people. It seems as though we can only help to a certain extent, because we can’t change the whole system. Returning volunteers noticed that the mountain of trash had grown substantially since the last time they visited. What’s worse: the dump continuing to grow or taking away the only source of income for a community of 150 people?
Uncomfortable- We can never fully understand the obstacles that these people face. When we walked into their homes, it was hard not to feel like we were incredibly out of place. We didn’t understand how they could seem happy welcoming us into their homes and not feel intruded upon. However, Kristen explained that they weren’t ashamed to show us how they live because what they have is a product of how hard they work.
Empowered- Every time you make a connection to another human being you become stronger. Being in the presence of the purest form of humanity is a source of strength and inspiration. After this experience, each of us has a more instilled sense of duty. This feeling is what drives so many of us to come back.
Team 2- Andrea, George, Alisha, Austin, Chloe