If anyone is like me, you start your morning with a daily cup of coffee, topped with a dash of almond milk, and one to two packages of sugar. Did you also know that the average person consumes 150-170 lbs of sugar each year. With that in mind, have you ever considered what the labor behind that tiny sugar package that you throw in your coffee entails? For ten days I saw men breaking their backs, and trudging through fields of sugar cane in order to make approximately three dollars a day per ton of sugar cane cut, and within three seconds we pour that sugar in our coffee without the thought ever crossing our minds. Being a part of the Dominican Republic Mission Team has changed my perception on world, and makes me appreciate all that I have. In order to share my experience I am going to tell a story about a little girl, age 9, named Yumalia.
On the first day of work in Batey 50, also named Batey Esperanza I met this beautiful little girl. Our first day at work all began with a tour of the village in the countryside. When the bus first pulled up to the village, kids were jumping up and down in the rain, clapping, with smiles ear to ear just to see us. We began our tour by walking to the Garden powered by solar panels and the kids walked hand and hand with the mission team. Being that this was my first time in the countryside of the DR I didn’t expect the kids to jump in my arms the second I walked off the bus because no one knew me. However, within the first few minutes Yumalia grabbed my hand as we were crossing the stream. On the way back, I picked her up because she was walking on the hard, dirty ground without shoes on. Then, before we started working Yumalia introduced me to her abuela. As soon as her grandma saw me she hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and said “gracias,” the Spanish term for thank you. I had no idea why but out of courtesy I respectively said “De Nada.” Day by Day Yumalia would wait for me the get off the bus and run to me the second I took my final step. She would watch me work, hug me even when I was covered in cement, and hold my hand every second she had a chance. Yumalia looked forward to seeing me everyday even though there was a language barrier denying us the ability to communicate. After 10days of hard labor, experiencing the heat the the sugar cane workers deal with everyday, finishing a house, and half of a playground I understand why Yumalia’s grandma thanked me the second she saw me.