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#B2B2018: Jake Allen Blog


Jake Allen

My time in Blanco was a life-altering experience that I will not soon forget. During our visits to the townships we got to see some of the government built housing. They were very small one room buildings with metal walls. This may sound negative, but it was a much needed improvement from their old insect infested housing, built from random pieces of wood and scrap metal, that looked like it could collapse at any minute. Even with the improved housing it was still far from anything people would consider acceptable at home. When I think of bad housing situations I imagine families staying in small motel rooms. Even then at least they have a solid building to live in that follows an avalanche of building codes. Many of the houses in these townships were simply built by the people living in them. This of course leads to hygiene issues. When I think of things we take for granted I think of lighting, electricity or food and water. Hygiene wasn't something I had considered before as I felt it was such a basic need, but after seeing these conditions I now realize its significance in our lives and how many live without it. In spite of these conditions the kids still smiled gleefully every time we met them. It wasn't the material things that made them happy, it was spending time with people who cared that gave them great joy. I think this is a lesson everyone could learn from. The parents of these kids can be amazing too. We met some who try to get good jobs to provide for their families. It seems so strange to meet someone working in a mall or restaurant and think they have to go back to their homes in the townships after work. Their persistence is inspirational. One morning we went to a garbage dump. I was shocked to see that people actually lived there, in small constructions the size of a crate, collecting and selling whatever they could find. Even in these conditions they persevered. I think this is what I took away most from my time in Blanco: their ability to move forward even in unimaginable situations. This determination and endurance is something I now strive to achieve.


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