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When I was 10 years old, my family moved to Guatemala. It was there that I was exposed to extreme poverty for the first time. I saw girls my own age, selling fruit and tortillas instead of attending school because their families couldn’t afford it. I saw hungry kids digging through the garbage for food. I had the privilege of sharing my lunch with students in my class who had come to school hungry.

What comes to mind when you hear the word poverty? I think, unsanitary, malnutrition, unclean water, homeless individuals, shoeless children, and hungry people. Now, I want you to take what you thought and imagine that on a larger scale. There are millions of people around the world facing this reality, but it’s not acknowledged, and I think that needs to change. The truth is, poverty is everywhere, just more debilitating in some countries, like Guatemala, which ranks 4th in most malnourished populations in the world. In 2020, due to the world wide pandemic, the United Nations saw an increase to 124 million individuals living in poverty. That means organizations like Be Humanitarian are going to be more vital to fighting hunger than before.

For 7 summers I was able to go on a Service Vacation to learn about life in Guatemala. I got to wash all our dishes and clothes by hand and hang them out to dry. If was a rainy day, we would re-wear our clothes until our next outfit was dry. I have so much love for my country and I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to see something that opened my eyes to the reality for millions of people. Travel has changed the way I look at life and the people who lack appreciation for the small things; like clean water, a free education, and electricity in their homes.  I learned a lot and although it is hard to see poverty first hand I am relieved to know that organizations like Be Humanitarian are fighting to end malnutrition and end hunger with education and self sustainability.

Justice Baxter-Spears