Hello from Nicaragua! My name is Kimberly Tanella and I am going to tell you briefly about my experience on Thursday May 29th. After a quick lunch we all loaded onto the bus with Luis, our bus driver, and Yamileth Perez. Yami is an amazing woman with an amazing story. She began by giving us a brief background about her life here in Nicaragua. She grew up on a dump, literally. Where the community of Managua dumped their trash is where Yami lived with approximately 189 other families. She explained that these families would make a living by collecting what may be ¨valuable¨ trash like plastic bottles. In effort to escape this obviously horrible lifestyle she and her mother began work at a Tobacco factory, however, making less than two dollars a day the two eventually returned to the dump where at least they could find food.
While Yami spoke, I sat in the back of the bus, where it was undoubtedly humid and uncomfortable, trying my best to hear her over the noisy rain that pounded against the roof. We were on our way to her community in the dump where she still lives, and while I was looking out the window I watched as the muddy streets filled with rain water. I had never seen anything like this in my life, but this is only the beginning. The rain began to let up and the windows of the bus were cracked so that we not only could get a breeze but also so that we could witness the environment in which Yami lives. It is hard to communicate the sight; starving stray dogs roaming the piles of trash in search of food and garbage everywhere. You can simply imagine the stench. How could human beings be living here? I couldn´t bring myself to believe it.
It was not until the bus´s ignition died on a narrow dirt street between shacks seemingly glued to one another that I realize we were in front of her home. We all got off the bus and walked only a few feet into the front door of her more than humble home where we stood in a semi-circle around her simply observing the unfamiliar and atmosphere. It was hard to believe—it still is hard to believe that someone could live within these four bright pink cement walls and raise four beautiful children as she has. As Yami spoke tears burned my eyes and a huge lump built up in the back of my throat. I had yet to cry, and I was afraid to let my sympathy show. As hard as I fought, the tears still came and my heart literally ached as it aches now recalling this experience. I did not feel pain this way before when I saw the shacks, so why did I suddenly become overwhelmed with these emotions? It was nothing she said, it was the extremely apparent strength that burst from her heart like rays of sunshine peeking out from the clouds. Tears streamed from my eyes as well as many of my peers (this would be the first of many) as she described her efforts as a community volunteer and the persisting struggle the community faces. For example, Yami volunteers her home as a health clinic, where she is currently treating the sick. However, the only reason this is possible is because the supplies take up a small wooden box about 12 inches by 6 inches which sits on a small book shelf in her living room. The things she pulled from this box and passed around were things that I readily have access to in my community in the United States.
Yet even while Yami described her struggles, there was a joy and a passion in her face that I very rarely get the opportunity to witness. I cannot speak Spanish, and even though Patty was translating, I did not need to understand her words in order to understand her. She is proud of her work and her life. So while the tears streamed down my cheeks and my heart lay shattered in the pit of my stomach, her positive spirit left me most amazed. I admire Yamileth Perez and I will never forget her or her story.