#B2B2018: Carter Allen Blog

I thought I knew what real poverty was; we’ve all seen the BBC adverts, the online charitable campaigns, I thought I had a good grasp of what these kids were going through before I arrived. What I didn’t – or rather couldn’t comprehend were the details: the small, unforgettable things like small living spaces of entire families, or the harshness of the drt ground on bare feet. The things you just can’t experience through a screen. One such example was the park on route with our food drop: the swing set was ruined, ripped apart for materials, leaving only a plank fettered in old rope. Broken bottles bloomed from the grass like a crown of thorns, it took me a few minutes to find a safe place to play with one of the children. Needless to say, I was heartbroken – I figured that was their best part of the day ruined. I couldn’t have been more wrong. To them, each splintered pine cone was a ball to be thrown, the dangling plank was a carousel ride they were lifted up and spun around on. Most importantly, myself and my fellow B2B members were – anything they wanted us to be. I was a samurai, fighting three energetic ninjas across the park battlefield. I was a horse, with the kid on my back jostling me to run faster in a daring race with my colleague and his jockey. I was an amusement park ride, carrying the kids up to great heights before crashing them back down to earth with a roar of joy and excitement. I’m still taken back by how undeterred these kids were by their environment. Naught but smiles and laughter surrounded me. One child in particular, Eshton, seemed to warm to me. On our second outing, he snuck up and shyly put his hand inside mine. A sweet moment I originally dismissed just like any other, but one that – like Eshton – snuck up and randomly appeared in my mind three days later. It was halfway through our trip and, as I was dwindling away on my phone, the reality that we would be leaving soon suddenly hit me. The thought of having to say goodbye meant a lot more now that I could see his smiling face looking up at mine. I was nearly bought to tears, but vowed to give 110% in the little time I had remaining. Another morning, we had an unplanned trip to the dump. The pungent smell hit first, long before the mountain of garbage came into sight. None of us really knew what to expect, because none of us really knew what we were doing there. I assumed I had seen the worst of it with the impoverished children, that there was nothing left to acclimatize to. It hit me like a sack of bricks when we left the car to find people living on – living in the garbage pile. Never before had I seen such an example of the old adage, “there will always be someone worse off than you”. In reality, however, poverty is poverty, and cannot be so easily defined from place to place like the park and the dump. It was here I found the only thing one can give to help poverty on a universal scale is love and attention, which we were aiming to provide. It was only a quick visit for us, but a lifetime for them. To say it puts things in perspective is an understatement. One of the occupants of the dump told us they lived here partly because they did not want to become criminals, that they could rather easily turn to a life of crime on the streets or join a gang. Instead, they choose the high road, admirably condemning themselves to the pile they live atop of. I think about these men a lot, silently hoping to myself that if I had come to their crossroad, I would join them on their lonely mountain; the unsung heroes that choose their own suffering over others. Their mentality and willpower amazes me, and I aspire to live with only a fraction of the bravery and morality that these men possess for their everyday life. It was important to see the darkness, but much of the time B2B spent as a beacon of light, bringing joy and laughter wherever our little combi went. I had my family with me, but I knew none of the B2B members going in. Unlike most, I had not spent weeks bonding with my peers and getting to know them personally. To my surprise, this did not stop my colleagues from being some of the most welcoming and sincere people I know (not to mention some of the most charitable). I felt such an openness with each of them, and I could always look around to see them entertaining the children when I felt unsure what to do. One particular night, I ran behind a house we were at to pick up something from our car, and was completely stunned by the vast, unpolluted night sky. For the first time in my entire life, I could actually the see the galaxy, with no light around to hinder my view. I called around for everyone else to see, and we all just gazed in silent awe for a few seconds before the conversation picked up again. It has to be one of my favorite memories with the team. Only after the trip had ended, did it really occur to me that this was not just about improving the lives of the Blanco children, but improving our own outlook as well. We get so caught up sometimes in the general hub-ub of life it’s easy to forget those less privileged than us. Even now, as I type this on my computer in my room, I need to remind myself that those kids I was playing with only a week ago are still there – more than just memories or fables, and most of them without the luxury of their own rooms or computers. More importantly, I remind myself how they didn’t need these things to be happy. My week in Blanco has been the first week in a long time I didn’t care about how many up-votes I got on Reddit, or about getting to message people back on Facebook, or about reading what Donald Trump just tweeted. It wasn’t even because we were occupied with the children, but rather a… radiation of relief, one that I’ve only ever found here in Africa – in Blanco – that brought to my attention what’s actually important in life: the family and relationships you build along the way. In the end, the kids helped me just as much as we helped them. I can’t thank enough the staff members and colleagues who took me on this journey, and it’s been an experience I’ll cherish forever. 

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