Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

“Let Yourself Be Defined By Your Actions”
July 30, 2010, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

Cajón del Maipo, Chile: no internet access, no phone service, no distractions of city life.  Every class of VE Global volunteers gets to go on a weekend jornada, or day trip, to this quaint little ranch in the mountainside outside the city that is rented out by an adorable and generous  hippie couple who live there.

The purpose of the jornada is for the whole group to have a chance to come together to reflect and refocus on the mission behind what we are trying to accomplish at VE. It was very easy for me to become side-tracked amidst the excitement of travel, meeting new people and places, and the fact that Santiago is one big non-stop party.

We began the weekend with loads of silly team building activities and mushy talks that really set the stage for the entire weekend. We broke into small groups and discussed the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty and the endless cycles that exist within the economic classes.  The disparity between the classes here in Santiago is immense. With 18.2% of the population under the poverty line, the top 10% of the population here consumes 41.7% of resources while the bottom 10% consumes only 1.6%. The statistics are alarmingly drastic, and probably are in the country where you reside as well.

Photo of Cajón del Maipo from Flickr user Naturaleza

One of the aims of VE is to seek to improve awareness  and in turn, improve the situation for those in need. When you view poverty from an outside perspective, many times it is easy to mistake the effects of poverty for the causes, and the cycle continues. I believe a difficult cycle exists within the upper classes as well.  People who grow up with money become accustomed to having and doing certain things that are no longer recognized as privileged, but normal. My heart breaks when I think about the privileges I have been handed and taken for granted. Most of those being privileges that the children at Anakena, the school where I teach, would never imagine possible. I am not from the view that everyone should feel ashamed and guilty for taking advantage of opportunities in life. However, I do think it is our responsibility to be aware of what truly is privilege and what is necessity. Fortunately and unfortunately, those of us who have never experienced what poverty feels like will never be able to fully empathize with those who endure the oppression that poverty brings with it. We are left to strive for awareness and compassion.

During our weekend retreat, we were given free time for some reflection of our personal and professional goals as well as objectives we hope to achieve within our institutions and with the children. It was so refreshing to take the time to sit alone with nothing but your thoughts, a pen and paper. One of my personal goals in coming to Chile was to consummate my independence as a woman. The first step was getting here alone. The second step is being intentional about tracking the progress of my goals in a tangible way.

I have learned that it really isn’t enough to simply desire to be a certain type of person, you have to live it. Someone recently told me a phrase that really stuck with me. “Let yourself be defined by your actions.” Although a simple theme, the phrase inherently carries with it a deep-rooted, yet fundamental challenge to be the person you want to be.  As I sit here in Chile, journal in hand, I bring this challenge to you. Wherever you are in life, whether you are traveling abroad in China or Latin America or you are settled in a place you call home, allow yourself to be defined by your actions.


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