This morning, as I woke up and began my usual routine, I paused for a second to break free from whatever thoughts my brain had been feeding into while on autopilot. I gazed contently at my bathroom sink as I felt its warm water running relentlessly over my hands. And then I did something that might have landed me in the loony bin had someone been there to witness it. I apologized to my bathroom sink. “But what would compel you to do such a thing?” one might inquire with a tone of ridicule and utter bewilderment. Well, I had just learned something a few days earlier that I had not been completely aware of before then. Something that would change the way I viewed even the smallest things in life.
“So what did you learn?” one might ask with eager anticipation. Well, let me show you by telling you a story. This is a true story about a group of incredible people who took a step that many people aren’t willing to take.
The story takes place in Peru where water pollution, inadequate sanitation, and overall poverty plague a population of approximately 29 million people. In certain areas, water must be delivered by truck to villages on top of hills that don’t have access to pipelines. The water is stored in open containers where it can easily be infected by mosquitoes and animals. In other poor areas, the water only runs from 5:30 am to around 7 am. Residents must go out early in the morning to collect all the water they need for the day, including water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning. In Peru, water pollution is responsible for the spread of malaria and dengue fever throughout a country that is still struggling to recover after a history of government corruption and violence.
Independencia district in Lima, Peru
Enter 10 students from NYIT who touch down at an airport in Peru during spring break of 2011 determined to make a change. Rather than spending their break partying and being oblivious to the issues going on around them, these citizens of the world decided to spend their spring break making an impact in the world. It was all part of NYIT's Alternative Break program planned in partnership with International YMCA. During the trip, these 10 students, along with one NYIT staff leader, spoke with some of the families living in extreme poverty about how water was being distributed and handled. The information they gathered has led to several soon-to-be-implemented solutions that could help solve the water pollution issue in impoverished villages in Peru. The group then went on to plant trees and build a playground which took many hours of hard physical work; but it was all worth it when the villagers expressed their delight in having a new safe place for the children to play. The group of students also spent time at an orphanage connecting with children and giving them the attention and affection they so desperately needed. The trip lasted 10 days, but the impact that it made on both the volunteers and the people they helped in Peru, will certainly last on.
When spring break came to an end, the group had to say their good-byes and make their way back home with a sense of accomplishment and a bittersweet feeling in having to leave a place that beheld such inspiring and humbling moments in each one of their lives. But the story does not end there. Dyesha Durm, one of the participants of the trip, was so touched by the experience that she returned to Peru on her own for the entire summer that same year. She has also been selected to be a student leader for this year's trip to Peru which now involves 13 students. This year, the program plans to resolve some of the water pollution issues documented during the first trip by introducing new water purification technologies and safer storage techniques. Following in the spirit of the first trip, they also plan to volunteer at an orphanage and work on ecological and construction projects. The ultimate goal of the program, besides providing a valuable learning experience for the participating students, is to implement lasting solutions to some of the issues impacting developing countries like Peru.
So this brings us back to me talking to my bathroom sink. I thought about all the times that I cursed at it for taking a little too long to let out hot water. Then I thought about the villagers in Peru who kept their water in buckets and basins, rationing it out throughout the day and perhaps reusing some of it. Derek Tao, a friend of mine who was one of the 10 students that went on that trip to Peru, recalled his experience to me. He told me about a bold young boy in Peru named Jack who, no matter how bad his living conditions were, always seemed to be happy. And you know what? I think Jack has got the right idea. If only we can all just be happy and appreciate the things we have. Boy, does this kid have life figured out! To donate to the cause, follow the link below. Your donation will be greatly appreciated! Please be sure to specify the designation of your donation to Alternative Break - Peru.
DONATE HERE: http://www.nyit.edu/giving_to_nyit/donate