By Farrah Ballou ’19
This past summer, I had one of the most life-changing and riveting experiences of my life when I participated in a school immersion trip and witnessed the marginalized and impoverished communities in California. After a yearlong course, called Ethics, Culture, Justice: California, which focused on the intricacies of poverty in California, my class and I, along with our teacher chaperones, spent 10 days away from our lives and delved into the lives of the voiceless in our surrounding communities. We stayed in each location for three days, aiding the homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, learning about the lives of the migrant farm workers in Monterey, and finally making our way down to Los Angeles for a glimpse of urban poverty. Both the adults and children we met suffered in different ways, yet their hope for a better future in times of absolute distress continues to inspire and resonate with me.
Our stop in Monterey directly connected to our lives as we saw first hand how migrant workers are not only abused but overworked to provide cheap food for our tables. We visited a migrant farm worker camp where there were affordable homes for the pickers, and three women shared their stories of abuse. One woman had blisters and burns because she was allergic to the sun, yet she kept working because she had hope that the future would be better for her and her kids. In fact, her daughter was the first one in that entire camp to attend a state school for college, breaking the vicious cycle that all the kids would become pickers, and providing a model of hope against all odds.
Next, we went to Los Angeles where we visited Dolores Mission School, a school for children who live in East Side LA, one of the most underfunded and impoverished urban communities in the country. Though the kids came from a struggling community, they were constantly fired up with hope for the future and focused on their studies. One student, Joshua, told us he dreams about being a basketball player in college and has his mind fixed on fulfilling his aspirations. These children might be from less privileged areas, yet their hopes, fears, and goals for the future are no different than any other student in the United States.
Traveling through the most ignored communities in the state not only taught us about our state, it pulled at our hearts and showed us human examples of how mistreated some of our neighbors are. Though they’ve suffered far more than most of us could imagine, they remain hopeful for the future. Through having faith in God’s plan, persevering for a better life for their kids, or working toward their goals, each person exemplified being resilient and hopeful. At the end of the trip, we were pushed to take this plethora of knowledge and act to find careers that direct our hands to positively change peoples’ lives. As hard as it was to see ongoing suffering, I have been entrusted with the stories of people and seen their unwavering vision of hope. My hope is to one day become a journalist, unveiling the stories of the marginalized and giving every person a voice.