"My mother is afraid to die." "My mother does not want to die and meet Jesus in heaven without knowing how to write her name. She is ashamed." Despite voicing entreaties such as this one to people who will listen, Tthe people of the marginalized barrios in which I worked people who arewere often misunderstood. Other than myselfme and a strong willed Spanish nun who would become my projectpartnerthere had been a Spanish nun who worked there, but the Dominican clergy and other religious groups and institutions did not minister herego. Some did not know these barrios existed, those who did many were scared bywarned me against entering them because of the high crime rate,level and many just did not care--- they people were uneducated, didn’tcould not vote, were criminals, were poor, wereHaitian. While I was initially intimidated by the communities I found myself drawn to, was working and concerned aboutintimidated by my lack of experience in adult literacy, these worriesintimations were obscuredmuted by my strong beliefeve in the human right to basic education and the fact that these people were those who needed help mostthe most help. I soon realized that under theirlearned undertheir rough exteriors were people struggling to get ahead whoand just wanted the opportunity to learn. One of several storiesThis is only one of hundreds of stories I have heard while conducting interviews, meeting with literacy students as they reflect on years of being told they don't know anything, of being called stupid, of being cheated andof being ignored. I came to believequickly learned aswell that the programs that actually make it to these populations mirror the treatment of received by those populations that they serve. As a literacy volunteer, I found myself with littlepoor support form community leaders, no funding, and being treated as a lownot a priority for the Ministryer of Education and little support from the Peace Corps. I began to feel just as marginalized as thepeople I was trying to help. As my service comes to a close, I am proud of all my studentsstudents’ accomplishments, but still see how much work there remainsis to be done in education and in developing countries.
Throughout my academic career, I have had an eclectic assortment of classmates or students which have included such as: a Kuwaiti princess, a President's daughter, a Sony Corporationheir, AMRAMCO brats, and exchangesstudents from Taiwan, Germany, and Mexico among others. I developed an interest in different cultures and my ability to integrate myself into their social circles in high school to the point I was giving the mockery that the superlative in our senior paper as "Most likely to want to be an international student."was bestowed upon me in our senior paper. My interestedfurther developed in college as I took advantage of clubs and classes focused on volunteering, public policy and international issues. Excited about the idea of living in a country ininaccessible to most which Americans cannot travel, Mmy senior year I studied abroad in Havana, Cuba. Intent on living life as a Cuban, I managed to used Cuban pesos wherever possible, tookake public transportation,stayed with a Cuban family and made exchanges exchangeparticipate in the black market economy. I was so focused on experiencing real Cuba that I landed myself in the hospital for five days due to my stubborn insistence onof drinking tap water like the Cubans do. Mbut most importantly, Cuba taught me that there are many facets into travel and in research there is always many sides. The sidestourists see, the sides governments want you to see, and the sides you see. I also experienced a system of education very different compared to that ofmuch different than the United States. In my experience, the students had little resources, but were immensely intelligent. Also, thise great education could be revoked at any moment depending on your voiced opinions on social issues and your dedication...
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