Views are a’changin’

Eva Ackerman - Ecuador


December 5, 2013

Throughout my teenage years, whenever I heard of people sending clothing, sports supplies, or money to a developing country, I got upset. There are people in the United States who suffer a great deal, yet it isn’t as glamorous to help improve their lives. I thought of all the people ten minutes away from my mainly wealthy community with whom my mom worked, kids who were living on the streets. I heard stories at my job of people who couldn’t sleep when it was quiet, because the only time it is silent is when somebody is about to get shot. I thought it was important to help the United States before helping other countries because the pain and poverty in the US is just as real.

My immigration views followed my logic. There are enough people in the US suffering right now, we need to help them before others come. Let’s improve the lives of the people living here first. And, although my mom is on the services side of helping, I believed in putting a lot more energy into changing systems. The parents didn’t matter to me as much as the kids, the future.

I believed that change was needed in a variety of different ways-better healthcare, healthier food, fewer prisons and more rehabilitation systems, but above all, I believed schools that taught analytical thinking could ultimately improve not only the US but the world.

I still believe a lot of it, yet it becomes harder as I become close to the people in my Ecuadorian community. I live and work in Paraiso de Amigos, a community in which all families work on farms owned by others. It is hard to continue having my same philosophy when Tatiana, a nine year old girl who can neither read, write, add or subtract, continues begging me to give her clothing. She has two extra shirts and pairs of pants besides the school uniforms. In my own theory, I shouldn’t want my mom to bring clothing for Tatiana or others. She should be giving our extra clothing to people in the US who need it.

It is also difficult to continue the same philosophy when Valaria, an incredibly intelligent and hardworking girl tells me her dream of becoming a teacher, yet her family is too poor to afford school after high school. In reality, Valaria will work on a farm, as her parents do.  Nevertheless, again, in my world, my and others donations should go to people in the US, they need higher education well. As well, should not we instead be putting energy into changing the university system, not raising money for one girl to attend university?

In terms of my views on immigration, my host family here includes people who were undocumented workers in the US. One host aunt and three host uncles worked at McDonalds, a gym, and in people’s gardens respectively so their offspring could go to university, a privilege they never had.

In the school I work at, I teach English to students ranging from ages five to thirteen. I was initially upset to learn that this would be my profession. What’s the point of teaching English to children who will never leave this area? I decided I would teach English to the younger kids, so they can have more opportunities when they are older. To the older kids, I have been attempting to teach analytical skills through English. When teaching the phrases “Where are you from?” and “I am from Ecuador.”, I showed pictures of different countries and asked what they liked and what they wished could be different about Ecuador. I said what I thought about the United States. Nevertheless, the students were more interested in playing soccer than they were in my lesson. And I could not  blame them. School is one of the only times they get to socialize, considering they all have to help their parents on Cocoa farms so there can a little more food on the table. This is not an exaggeration, kids come to school hungry.

I care a lot about my 74 students. I want them to grow up and have the opportunity to continue their studies. I hope they can think critically about their lives and the world. As I dream about what these students can become, I keep challenging myself. Why do I care so much about these kids if my thoughts on governmental policy would work against my community? Technically, I don’t care about the Valaria’s and Tatiana’s in other developing countries, why here. It is only natural to want to help the people I am surrounded by, but it now feels hypocritical to go back to the United States and have the same political thoughts I had before.

Eva Ackerman