4 lessons learned in the campo
Before my Campo immersion, I saw people experiencing poverty as individuals who had much less than me and were therefore unhappy or unfulfilled. Living in the Campo completely changed my view of “the poor”. People may be considered “poor” because they lack material things, but I found that they are very rich in other aspects of their life. I felt that the people I met in the Campo had much deeper relationships with their families and community. I also felt that their faith was much stronger and richer than mine. It made me think, who are "the poor"? Are they the people who lack material wealth? Or could they actually be the people who lack relationships with others and self-awareness?
Since high school, I’ve heard many people talk about the issues with access to water. Many times statistics are thrown at us about how many people don’t have access to water. It was not until I was living with people who have very limited access to water that this issue became something I could start to understand. I had never thought about how necessary water is for the daily function of a household. I found myself constantly worried about how much water I was using. I would rarely wash my hands and sometimes avoided brushing my teeth. It really hit home one day when my family asked me to bathe in the river because of their severe lack of water for even drinking and cooking. The people in the campo were not even working for clean filtered and treated water; they simply just wanted water. Suddenly the statistics I had heard for years had faces behind them, and the shear greatness of the numbers now overwhelms me.
3. “Plastic Chair” Culture
Plastic patio-style chairs are everywhere in the Dominican Republic. I did not realize the significance of the plastic chairs until living with my family in the Campo. Wherever I went around in the campo, I would always be offered a plastic chair to sit in. When people would come visit my family’s house they were also immediately offered a chair. This was a culture I was not used to, but I loved it. Unlike the culture in the United States, people will rarely say more than a simple “hello” to an acquaintance or casual friend and if they do, they ask how they are doing in a matter of 20 seconds. When people greet each other in the campo they spend at least a few minutes to stop and talk. People are much less concerned about time and instead value the relationships with others much more. For me the plastic chairs were symbolic of the people’s desire here to spend time together. I hope to take this part of their culture back with me and implement it in my life.
4. Unconditional Love
While living in the Campo I experienced an incredible amount of unconditional love from my host family and the community as a whole. From the moment we stepped out of they bus they applauded and showered us with love. Despite the fact that we interrupted their lives and invaded their homes, they constantly showed us love. They would prepare us their favorite desserts or fruits. They wanted to teach us everything they knew, whether it was digging, cutting fruits, cooking rice, milking cows, or riding horses. They shared so much of their lives with us. I have never been shown this kind of love from complete strangers. The campesinos gave their whole-selves to us. They taught me that it is possible to show unconditional love to anyone, even the people we do not know.
Clarita, Comunidad 18