We got out of the car after a 15-minute car ride down a winding dirt road. One way in, one way out, this narrow road is unpaved and lined with tall grass and no street lamps. Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the education I was about to receive. Mr. Bruno, Founder and Director of Samugam Foundation gave Julien and I a brief overview of what we were about to encounter. “(Waving to the right and left) This is the tuk tuk that Samugam Foundation has donated to the village for any medical emergencies, and this little shop we provide and stock for them to have necessities. Before this was here, they would have to walk down this dirt road to get anywhere, which is very treacherous if you are ill. 130 families live here in 75 houses. Also, 3 people have died in the last year of snakebites walking along this road in the dark. Okay, lets go.” (Casual.)
As soon as we walked up to the village, we were met with many smiling children that were curious to know what we were doing there. Bruno was a celebrity and everyone met him with hugs. To my right, I noticed a tiny woman emerge from her modest shack with a few week-old baby attached to her. She was very excited to see Mr. Bruno and greeted us all with such a beautiful big smile one can only find on a proud new mother. Mr. Bruno took the baby from her arms with ease and explained that the child was born with a stomach problem, most likely due to malnutrition of the mother, and Samugam helped pay for the procedures needed. Behind the woman was a young girl, whom Bruno explained was visiting home for holiday from Samugam Foundation where she lives. She is 13 years old. Her mother died of health complications, and her 60-some year old father, had re-married the young 22 year-old woman with the few-week-old baby we just met.
Continuing through the village, lined with chickens roaming around, trash scattered about, and pigs off in the field, many young dirty children sat on the road eating modest portions of rice with their hands.
Two young boys washing at the water bucket lingered, and a young man smiled at us while washing clothes from another bucket. You could tell that water was hard to come by in this village.
An old woman waved Mr. Bruno over to talk to him. She had recently been ill and needed help from him to explain how to use the medicine she received. As literacy is not common in the village, she could not read the instructions on her own.
A little further down, a family was preparing dinner. This community lives well below the poverty line and eat whatever they can find. I am not sure if I will ever be able to get the image of a grown man gutting a rat he pulled out of a carton of trash out of my head.
This community was so kind and welcoming, despite having nothing. A group of women smiled at me, and one woman waved me over. We do not share a common language, but I squatted down next to her and returned her smile to see what she was doing. She reached into a bag next to her, pulled out a beautifully carved stamp, dipped it into a can of paint, and pointed to my hand and smiled. I gave her my palm, and she started stamping my hand, producing a beautiful design. These stamps are made by the women in the community out of the rubber of shoes they found in trash dumps and sold on the streets to make some cash.
A young boy curiously played with me, checking out how our hands differed.
Most empowering of all was this beautiful 16-year-old girl. She studies at Samugam and was practicing her English with me.
“In two years, I will be finished with my education from Samugam. After this, I hope to continue to study and become a teacher. I want to help all the children become educated, like Samugam has helped me. Right now I am on leave, so I am staying back in my village. I wake up early and go for a run and do yoga with the smaller children. I then help them all clean themselves, as they are often very dirty. I come back to help with the children on every holiday.”
I was not prepared for everything I witnessed during my short visit to this village. As much as you imagine what extreme poverty is like, it is a very different experience seeing it for yourself and meeting the wonderful humans whom are victim to it. I have always been aware how fortunate I have been in my life, but this experience forced me to FEEL it to my core. I will never forget this community and know in my heart that I will spend the rest of my life trying to help them and many others in the world like them, break the harsh barriers of poverty.
Social Media : @Samugam_Foundation
By: Morgan Speece