After visiting India in 2009, I got to see some extreme examples of poverty and disparity. It was while visiting India that I decided that I was going to be more serious about school and get an education so that I could combat the effects of poverty worldwide. I actually partnered very closely with an NGO from India calling themselves integreater. It was myself and a fellow integreater from Paris who wrote the organizations pledge statement (www.integreater.org). Even though I was ready to leave poverty and help end it, there are many lessons I learned while living in poverty that still sit with me today. So without further or do, here’s ten things I learned while growing up poor.
- How to be happy with me
While other kids in my school and in my neighborhood were getting the newest video game systems and enjoying their Taling Nanos, my sisters and I were playing with toys we’d had for years. Not having much and being creative and fun loving children, we learned how to make our own games and activities to keep us occupied. Being poor was a constant exercise in being creative and in order to be creative, we had to be active and willing. Nowadays just missing breakfast can make you cranky, but we enjoyed ourselves on baloney sandwiches and ramen noodles whenever we could, and when we couldn’t, we played hungry.
- How to act on my determination
Being around other kids who had things easily made me envious and I think was very lucky to not have turned to gangs and drug dealing in order to have. It’s all too easy choice to make when you’re flat broke and have an opportunity to not be. By default, I knew I didn’t have the money to do most of the things I wanted to do and have many of things I wanted to have. But, I was always coming up with creative solutions to my own problems. For example, I wanted to get into commercial acting at Caryn International Model and Talent Agency. The classes I wanted to take though amounted to $2500 dollars. I wrote the agency a letter and expressed my interest in joining the class. I also talked to my church pastor and told him I wanted to be an actor. He thought it was such a good idea that he actually got the church to raise money for me to go. We raised $1500 dollars and Caryn International gave me a scholarship for the remaining balance. Since then I’ve always known that I have a resource in my community and I’ve actually gone great distances by reaching out to the community around me.
- The Value of Giving
I only found out what “Paying It Forward” meant earlier this year (Seriously) but it’s something I’ve been doing all my life. It doesn’t really come from me wanting to help others. It’s true that I do want to help , but it’s more of something that I do because I’ve been there and I’ve gone through the hardships that I actively fight against today. My sisters and I would always get presents from Angel Tree when we were younger because we were low-income. It was always great to know that there were people out there who would generously give to make sure that we had a good Christmas. Even if they didn’t know us. Now that I am in a position to give, I know I want to be that person for children like me. Even when I was younger, sharing with kids in school whose parents didn’t pack them a snack was important to me. In fact, most of my friends and I would pool together what we had and enjoy it together. I learned the real value of giving from being poor and on the receiving end.
- Denying Vanity
I’ve often had to argue with people about the American poor having nice things. Though it seems like a counter-argument to my header, I’ll say it anyway. I don’t believe the poor should be condemned for having a few nice things. We live in a society that flashes iPhone 6’s and the latest advancements in technology that will you make your life so much easier. I don’t believe it’s fair that the poor should wait to receive or give nice things to people they feel are worthy. After all, they might have worked harder than you did for your last $800 dollars.
Ok, now that I got that out of the way, I personally learned that I was fine having fewer nicer things to get by because I’ve always known that I could live without them. Without the distraction of wanting the latest designer fashion and the best tech device (so glad I never got a Sidekick!), I could focus on what really mattered to me most: Creating valuable experiences!
Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to do things I thought were amazing. From setting up my first lemonade stand to flying to Atlanta to visit the college of my dreams, I knew that my life was going to be more valuable and memorable if I played a part in creating the experiences in life that mattered most to me. I found myself very bored with clothing stores and was often more excited by trips to the bookstore. Without many toys, my imagination became more valuable to me. Filling my mind with more and more became important. To this day I consider myself a lifetime student.
- The Value of Education
In the interest of filling my brain with as much as I could, I’ve always known education to be my greatest ally. The name “Berato” is actually a morrocan word that means “Student”. I don’t think that’s why my Dad named me Berato but it’s definitely a good fit. Whenever given the opportunity to learn something new, I jump on the opportunity.
My sisters and I would often spend long hours at the house by ourselves while my Mom worked late nights. We had to learn to take care of ourselves and to take care of each other. I like to think that gave me the confidence to handle bigger and more complex tasks because of how daunting the tasks of feeding my two younger sisters felt.
Nowadays, I find myself often conquering big and seemingly impossible tasks at work and with my family. I find that even if I don’t know know the exact path to solving a problem, I’m more than willing to learn how to accomplish and am very happy to build on what I learn to do even better things.
Being poor has taught me so much in life. I value my experiences a lot more now because of where I came from. I’m humbled by the life I lead now. I do wish that I was giving back to my community more. But I think MDST 485 is an awesome start.