I wake up every morning to its rich scent. My parents cannot start the day with out it. I often wait in line and pay $3.85 to buy it. The senior lodge at my school is littered with empty Starbucks cups containing only the remnants of skim lattes, , and mocha frapuccinos. Coffee is a staple of American life that many take for granted, but few take the time to think about how they get it.
In the rural village of Cadillo in the Dominican Republic, the people’s livelihood depends on coffee. Rows of green coffee plants line steep hills and scatter the countryside. The people there pick and sell the coffee beans but receive little profit for their hard work.
During the week I spent in Cadillo playing , I witnessed the poverty these coffee farmers endure. Their homes are small and dark, furnished with only a few wooden chairs, a table and a few beds. There is no lawyers and electricity in Cadillo and I especially remember the emptiness of the village at night, when I could only vaguely see the faces I illuminated with my flashlight. I can still see the shiny metal bowl in which they used to bathe, and Jose, a neighbor who was missing several teeth because like most people in Cadillo, he lacks a toothbrush and could not afford a .
These images still burn in my mind, but it was the people of Cadillo more than anything who opened my eyes to the importance of social justice. Bore I met them it was just a concept I heard about a few times a year at church when a missionary would come to speak about the poor people in Africa or South America and explain why it was our duty to help them. These people were far removed. A small fraction of my weekly allowance, once a year, and I could remove them from my mind. After living for a week with a family in Cadillo, however, I understood for the first time that it was real people leading these lives.
The family I stayed with there took me in as part of their family and gave me a taste of their life. I remember my Dominican father, Barilla’s face as he played guitar and how he laughed kindly when I struggled to play the chords he had taught me. I could feel the warmth and sincerity of my Dominican mother, Marsela, when she sat and talked with me about my home and family after a long day of work. And I will always remember how much fun I had playing catch or blowing bubbles with their two children, Jendi and Andisco.
I will not forget the images I saw or the people I encountered. They made me realize that my work does not end with the school I helped build, the holes I helped dig, or the roads I helped widen. They showed me that there are real, wonderful people being treated unjustly and that I cannot sit back and let that happen. I cannot be silent when I know that people are getting rich off the coffee Barilla receives so little for. It is my responsibility to be active, to teach what I have learned, to fight injustices in my community and the world.
I am not sure if I will ever visit Cadillo again but I do know that I can continue what I started there. I can tell people what I saw and spread awareness about injustice in the world. I can volunteer in my own community to help make changes at home and fundraise to aid third world countries. And tomorrow, after I wake up to the smell of fresh coffee, I can make a difference.