For the first time, I find myself having difficulty expressing my thoughts so succinctly and concise, but poverty is not a topic that can be so easily summarised. Sure enough, many of us watching television daily see commercials of the poverty in Africa; of the malnourished children and the slums they call homes. Many of us will turn a blind eye to the disastrous areas of the third world, but what happens when you are forced to look upon such devastation?
You feel guilt.
That morning, I had set out for an adventure into the Dominican wilderness, to experience all things Caribbean; from the delightful cocoa, to the more-ish and wonderfully scented aromas of roasted coffee and the crunchy taste of the coconuts – I was certainly well catered for.
But what of the locals? The young girl that reached up into the jeep to give me a parting gift; an exotic red flower. What life does she lead, while I sit in blissful luxury in a five-star hotel just twenty minutes away? Looking into the deep contours and colours of the flower, I felt guilty, but incredibly grateful for what I had.
Almost a year ago I created a blog on ‘The Importance of Being Grateful’, and of the family that claimed thousands in benefits, cheating the real poverty of our own country. What right do they have? What right do they have to take money from the homeless, the penniless and the tragic?
I was faced with one question: what could I give back to the Dominican locals?
What could I give back to the school that had trembled in its footsteps towards the future? Those grey wooden desk chairs, the rotting chalkboard and the basketball hoop hanging by its steel chains in the playground – what can I do?
The children and adults alike are happy because they know no different. They have pride in themselves, and they seemed to say ‘do not pity us, for we are proud of the way we live’.
If you are visiting the Dominican Republic, please spare a thought to the children and their education. Please donate crayons, pencils, colouring books, children’s toys, anything that may help them.
They are a proud nation, and their children deserve to play with something other than the discarded bottles of tourists.