Reflection On El Cacique, Dominican Republic

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Some days, the temperature in El Cacique, Dominican Republic neared 95 degrees. I, along with 19 other eager students were stationed there for a week. There, we painted newly constructed school buildings and worked with the local children for hours on end. As cool sweat dripped down my face and back, I found myself gazing into the distance, studying the run-down landscape. I had seen poverty before. In movies that I watch at home, I see people living with hardships that I cannot imagine. Yet, after 16 years of watching people struggle through a sensored TV screen, working in the Dominican Republic allowed me to experience true poverty for the first time.
Curious about the lives of the children, I began to ask them questions and have them tell me stories. One conversation in particular resonated with me. While Moisé was eating breakfast,
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I saw workers who made their living rummaging through garbage dumps. I saw children like Moisé, a nine year old boy, walk a distances upwards of three miles to where my church was stationed just for a small meal. I saw young girls, no older than seven, carrying around their baby brothers because their parents were at work, digging for trash. What did not make sense to me, however, was that every child was elated. Despite their burdensome lives, the children of El Cacique were always helping each other, laughing, smiling, and running around as if their lives were perfect. Throughout the week, I continued talking with kids of all ages. I was eager to understand the unique source of joy that fills the hearts of these beautiful children. After immersing myself in this foreign culture, I began to figure it out. For the kids like Moisé, they don’t dwell on the fact that they do not have a comfortable bed to sleep on at home, or a new bike to ride to school. They focus on the fact that they have a home and that they have a school to attend. That is what really matters to
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