Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Last Day in Colombia!

Today is my final day in Colombia! I can’t believe it has gone by so fast. I feel like I just arrived yesterday and its already time to leave! It is so hard for me to watch how many people diseases affect as I treaded through the streets. Everywhere you look, there are newborn babies and toddlers that consist of only skin and bones. Children that are not even eight years of age it seems are watching over and taking care of the babies. According to UNICEF in 2007, over 170,000 Colombians were living with HIV or AIDS (3). Since then, numbers have risen and the AIDS epidemic has become more prevalent. Since there is so much poverty, sanitation issues, and not enough education about AIDS, the disease keeps spreading rapidly! This saddens me beyond belief because there is nothing I can do to make this problem go away. Yet our team is doing everything in our power to help people out, educating them about how severe AIDS is and telling them what they can do to shy away from it.
(Photo Courtesy of CERF)

Although we are in a safe area in the tiny little city, I still have moments where I feel completely unsafe. While security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities (1). One of the men in the group was robbed while using an automatic teller machine on the street. The man that robbed him was on a motorcycle and didn’t even see him coming. There have also been instances of robberies of tourists departing at the airport, on hiking trails, and taxi passengers (1). After the mugging, I have began to get very scared to leave our campsite, even with a bunch men!

(Photo Courtesy of CERF)

Even though there are lots of children flooding the street, a good chunk had some type of schooling. According to our tour guide, about eighty percent of children enter school (5). Of those children, around sixty percent of students complete primary schooling, which is five years and move onto secondary schooling, which is six years (5). We met a young girl named Natalia, who had joined a preschool academy until she turned six and then went to school (5). She was so cute and so proud that she got to go to school because her best friend did not. She would come back afterwards and teach her the things she learned in class that day. School goes from February to November in the main city, whereas in other cities if goes from August to June of the next year (5). Children are very well behaved during school. It looks like children in America could take some notes!

I can’t believe it is already time for me to go back to the States! I have learned so much from the culture in Colombia. I have high hopes for the society to come around and knock out poverty all together.

(1)         Travel.State.Gov. Colombia. (2010)
(2)         Rural Poverty Portal. Royal Poverty in Colombia. (2010)

(3)         UNICEF. Colombia (2 March 2010)

(4)         The Telegraph. Colombian drug cartels blamed for the destruction of rainforest. (2008)

(5)         Findtarget Reference. Colombian People. (2010)

(6)         Wide Horizons for Children. Humanitarian Aid In Colombia. (2010)

(7)         The World Factbook. South America: Colombia. (2010)

Colombia Day 3

Today is the third day of my trek through South America’s Colombia. It has been raining all day. Weather is usually nice here due to the equator having an effect on the climate, not having dramatic changes in season. We slowly drive through a small Colombian village, jam packed with hundreds of kids who are lining the streets. It’s a shame to know how many young children are suffering per day. In Colombia, poverty affects about 22 million Colombians, and 7.4 million of them live in extreme poverty (2). The guide who has been taking us around has told us that jobs are not easy to come by, leaving many families in extreme poverty. If an adult does find a job, they must completely provide for their families. In order to work long hours, parents must leave their older children to care for their younger children (6). Because of children being unattended, they begin to roam the streets, leading to child violence (6).  Oh how sad all the children look, waiting for a chance to get a well-fed meal.
(Photo Courtesy of Luis Perez)
The crop in Colombia is abundant. As many people are aware, coffee bean growth is a main area of money income. Some other agricultural products include: bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, cocoa beans, vegetables and sugarcane (7). In 1965, 80 per cent of the rural population depended on agriculture for a livelihood, but in 2007 that figure had shrunk to 43 per cent (2). However, having land is a major problem in Colombia. I can definitely tell as we stroll through the village that land is hard to come by. Large landholders control significant areas of under-utilized land (2).
What surprises me the most about my trip so far is the issue of deforestation within the villages of Colombia. Villagers use many chemicals, pesticides, and sulfuric acid to turn the abundance of cocoa into cocaine (4). Coca producers, since 2008, have destroyed over five million acres of rain forest in the slash and burn method, trying to find cocoa beans (4). Can you imagine the damage that destroying that much rainforest can do to overall crop growth and economic gain? What a shame!

Well I am off to bed after a long days work. I can’t believe all the wonderful land we got to see today. It is absolutely compelling to know that such a beautiful land has so much famine and issues. I hope we get a shower tonight, although we got soaked all day today!

(1)         Travel.State.Gov. Colombia. (2010)
(2)         Rural Poverty Portal. Royal Poverty in Colombia. (2010)

(3)         UNICEF. Colombia (2 March 2010)

(4)         The Telegraph. Colombian drug cartels blamed for the destruction of rainforest. (2008)

(5)         Findtarget Reference. Colombian People. (2010)

(6)         Wide Horizons for Children. Humanitarian Aid In Colombia. (2010)

(7)         The World Factbook. South America: Colombia. (2010)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poland week 4

I have now been in Poland for 4 weeks and I have gotten to know more Polish people while being here, and it has been very interesting to hear what they have been saying about the state of their own country.  The majority of them are frustrated with the high unemployment rates, and lack of good paying jobs.  I can understand this, especially families with several children that can’t pay for adequate meals for their children.  Many of them have a job, but just aren’t being paid enough to be able to support their family.

photo: Real World Image

photo: Real world image

A few weeks ago we visited a school in Chynow which was surprisingly well attended for a small town.  We helped out in the classroom, around noon we took the kids to lunch, it was amazing to see them all sitting patiently and eagerly waiting for the food.  Once the food was in front of them it was a feeding frenzy, there was not any food that was wasted.  I was later talking to a teacher, she told me 22% of children in Poland are under the poverty line(4).  For some of these children this is the best meal they have that day, for many it’s their only meal.  Many children are sent to school for the sole reason that they will get fed.  At this school in particular there are 120 students, and 50 can’t pay the $1.10 for the school lunch.  The only way they get food is because of the government agencies that must step in(3).  
In the past years Poland’s economy has been slowly improving.  Researchers have said that the reduction of poverty in Poland is directly linked to the amount of jobs that are able to be generated.  Just recently Poland has seen an increase of the amount of jobs, so that has created a small amount of hope for the Polish people(5).

photo: Robin Strand

(3) Bloomberg Businessweek. (2008). Pockets of Poverty in Poland. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/may2008/gb2008056_273599.htm
(4) The News. (2010). Poverty in Poland on the rise. Retrieved from http://www.thenews.pl/national/artykul135527_poverty-in-poland-on-the-rise.html
(5) Ideas. (2010). Economic growth, income distribution, and poverty in Poland during trasition. Retrieved from http://ideas.repec.org/p/wbk/wbrwps/3467.html

Poland first week

I have just arrived in Chynow, Poland and I wasn’t sure what to expect but our team walked around the city earlier I notice the dirty streets lined by boxy gray houses.  It just looks so bland, and no one looks happy, everyone has a dejected hopeless look about them.  I am not sure why everyone looks so unhappy.  I stopped an older woman on the street to ask her about this depression I see all around me.  She goes on to tell about the many transitions Poland has been undergoing such as the growing poverty, joining the European Union and struggling to make the change over to capital system this has led to an increase of unemployment, growing gap between the social classes where before Poland was a classless society, the health system deteriorating, and higher housing prices(2). 
photo: London digital arts

After hearing this I understood so much more the despair that the Polish people are currently feeling.  We volunteered at a soup kitchen yesterday, and it was there I learned that 35% of the population is severely materially deprived(1) and 1 out of every 3 people lives in absolute poverty(1). This was shocking to me, I never thought of Poland as being a country that struggled with poverty.
I am interested to see how the rest of the trip goes and what else I will learn while being in Poland.
photo:  Stuart P. Donachie
(1) The News. (2010). Thirty two percent live in poverty in Poland. Retrieved from http://www.thenews.pl/international/artykul124022_thirty-two-percent-live-in-poverty-in-poland.html
(2)Polish Forums. (2007). Poverty in Poland. Retrived from http://www.polishforums.com/archives/2005_2007/everyday-life-7/poverty-poland-7329/

Sunday, December 5, 2010

India Day 10

I have now been in India for 2 weeks, and I have experienced so much here already.  Our team has been working in a school the last couple of days, and it’s been wonderful to be around the children but it’s also heartbreaking to see the conditions they are living in.  India has more children in the world than any other country they have around 375 million(5), and of those children 20 million are not in school(4), they either can’t afford it, or their health doesn’t allow them.  Many times they have to work for their families, and they normally work long hours and for a very small amount of money, there is around 44 million child laborers in India total(5).  They are put in dangerous working conditions and many cannot also attend school.

A couple of weeks ago we visited the slums in India which was one of the most shocking things I have experienced so far.  The conditions these people live in are terrible, there is a horrible smell and many times there is trash and human waste lining the dirt roads where people walk.  It is so sad that for these people it’s gotten this bad, they are trapped in this vicious cycle and have no way of getting out.  There are children running around everywhere many without any parents.  Death and disease is a regular occurrence for these people.  Because of their poor drainage system and lack of clean water supply within the slums it is perfect breeding ground for disease such as urban malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, leprosy, and intestinal worm and these are just a few of them(6).

When I first arrived in India I was not prepared for what I would experience.  I could not imagine that the poverty, and sickness that I would see and experience.   I want to do something to help these people but I don’t know what to do.  In the past few years India has been making steps to help this problem of poverty, and because of the growing economy there is hope for the future, and the people of India.

photo: Lucian Marin
(4)World Press. (2009). Statistics on Poverty in India. Retrieved http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/stats-on-human-rights/statistics-on-poverty/statistics-on-poverty-in-india/
(5)Children around the world. (1999). Indian children in poverty. Retrieved from http://homeport.tcs.tulane.edu/~rouxbee/kids99/india2.html
(6) Express India. (2010). Filthy slums, colonies openly invite diseases. Retrieved from http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/filthy-slums-colonies-openly-invite-diseases/337129/

Saturday, December 4, 2010

India Day 1

I finally made it to New Delhi, India! I am in with a group of nine other people all excited to learn about the Indian culture.  Today was our first day walking around the city and we saw the one of the largest mosques in India called the Mecca Masjid. This is where Indians worship several of their 330 gods. We also visited the Salar Jung Museum which has a lot of bright tapestries, jewelry and has ancient weaponry and sculptures. It was fascinating to learn more about Indian culture and history.  I was talking with our group leader today and he told me some shocking facts about India that I didn’t realize before; he said that India is number one on the world poverty list and that it holds a total of 41.1% of the world’s poor(1), which is unbelievable. He also said that the life expectancy for men is 66 and women is 64 which is ten years lower than in the U.S.(3)  

Photo: Nitin Sethi

As we were on our way back to our house for the night we passed a woman and her infant by a corner begging for money or food, so I stopped and gave her some money. As I continued to walk by one of the group member informed me that 44% of the children in Indian suffer from malnutrition(2) and that the infant mortality rate is 55/1000(3) which is heartbreaking to think that the child she was holding may not even make it to its 5th birthday. 

As I got back to our house I looked up some more information on Indian employment because I wanted to learn more about the poor in India. I found out that 40% of Indians live on $1.25 per day(2).  Also, that 8.9% of the population is unemployed(3).  I began to realize that there is a lot more to Indian poverty than just a few statistics and that this is a problem that has been deep rooted in their society, and I am looking forward to learning more about this growing problem in the weeks to come.

photo: Gerry Popplestone
(1)Nation Master, (2003-2010). Economy statistics. Retrieved from http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_pov_sha_of_all_poo_peo-poverty-share-all-poor-people 
(2)Wikipedia. (November 16, 2010). Poverty in India. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_India
(3)Compassion. (2007). India Facts. Retrieved from http://www.compassion.com/poverty-map/

Friday, December 3, 2010

Haiti! Day 7

Today I arrived in Les Cayes. Our group was set up to visit one of the only remaining clinics since the earthquake. Before us, there had been a large number of states and nongovernmental organizations are on the ground providing assistance to the Haitian people, who are showing discipline and self-organization (2). There is an outdoor "clinic" being covered by WorldwideVillage with young doctors examining the patients, cleaning wounds, treating infections, and preparing them to surgery.  Six surgeons keep busy without a break.  But the people and their families are so appreciative that it is incredible to realize the impact of these medics.  Since the language is Creole and French, I always need a translator. It's still hard to believe that as of 2007, over 120,000 people were also living with HIV and/or AIDS (3). What a staggering fact that was incredibly heartbreaking.
 (Photo Courtesy of Addison Price)
The good news is that we are staying at one of the few buildings that are standing. It is an amazing building, engineered by students to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes (5).  No water til today, but now we have water for sinks, toilets and showers. I get a shower tonight! We also have filtered water today, which is great since our bottled water was almost gone.  We need so much water from the heat, since it is so incredibly hot (5).  
 I spent the morning out with the truck, going to villages asking for any known hurt people.  Guys would jump in the back of our pickup and ride with us to find a person down the road. There are no street addresses, so it's just looking for a hut in a general area.  Even if some buildings survived the earthquake and aren't seemingly damaged, the Haitians are afraid to sleep indoors anywhere (5). It seems like everyone is sleeping outdoors in tents or makeshift shacks!  Many people right aside of intact buildings, but they refuse to take the chance! 
 (Photo Courtesy of Addison Price)
The other big news is that there was a riot outside our compound, with the outside tent people wanting food.  They actually are asking that the Americans distribute the food, because there is so much bribing and discriminating among the Haitians (5).  They think that the Haitians that are running the facility that we are staying at, are distributing food to "friends" outside the compound.  Security were being called, and warnings being sent out to everyone about stealing. We had to close the clinic early. From what I've heard, there are alot of "orphanages" that take care of kids whose parents can't raise them, but still stay connected to them and visit them regularly (5).  There are also many children attending school, who do their schooling outside of their tents on benches.
My trip is almost to an end. What a fantastic learning experience! This has been riveting to see how much poverty the world is in and how much need there is from other societies!

(sidenote: I am actually considering taking a missions trip to Haiti in April of 2011. I hope everything works out. I am so excited!!!!)

(5) Price, Addison. Personal Interview. (November 2010)