Patricia G.

As Interviewed by Alec G., March 16, 2012

Patricia G.: In Her Own Words

To think and to talk about poverty is something that I believe makes us all feel bad. It fills you up with sadness. You just canít believe that being in the 21st century, there exists more than one billion people living in poverty. That number is about 20% of the world population. Those statistics are not looking good, and our world wonít be able to sustain itself and think of the future in human development if we have poverty as a major issue that we need to deal with first. Also, to think that in those 1 billion people, there are millions of kids who die because they live in bad conditions, and other kids live on the streets, some of which take up prostitution so that they can have the food they need to survive by getting paid. Itís really just horrible. Itís sad that things arenít really getting any better, and even with that already happening, more wars keep occurring, and that along with this global economic recession that we are facing, adds more people to these numbers and makes things even worse.

My life was fairly normal. I grew up with my parents in their house, which they owned. We didnít have any problems with not having a residence. I had the opportunity to get a good education and then get a job. To find a job in Argentina is one of the biggest difficulties that people living there have. With that, life becomes very difficult in many ways. Already with the fact that you need to go to work, and arrive at your job, is hard every day because very few people own cars, and so the largest form of transportation is public, taking the bus, riding the subway, taking a train, or hopping on a taxi. Every day you find a new problem, protests usually block the streets because people are complaining about various issues in the country and they all go out on the streets in a very large group and block the roads. Also, the people who work as for example a bus driver, or a train conductor go on strike because they feel like they are not getting enough pay, they are being treated unfairly, etc. Even when you go to the bank you find yourself in long lines where you have to wait very long to take care of what you need to do. These lines form because most people pay their debts by going to the bank in person. You have to be really patient to deal with that.

Near the community where I live, there were other communities of poor people that were established who became known as Villas Miserias, which loosely translated means slums. The people there built their homes with precarious materials like cardboard, metal sheets, sticks, things found on street, or things that sometimes are stolen. Usually the floor is just a layer of dirt. Many did not have electricity or water in their homes. The conditions here that people lived in were truly devastating, you would see children running barefoot across the streets with very little clothing on. In winter the conditions are really ugly because nobody has any form of heating in their homes. Sadly, most of the residents who live in those kinds of conditions donít have work. Many of them have to dedicate their lives to selling drugs or robbing other people. The problem that the kids have there is that many of them do not go to school, they have to go out to the streets and ask people walking by for money because their family is broke. You can say it is a sort of a job for them as a child. A sort of cycle is produced where those kids, with not receiving education, donít leave that state of poverty, and they donít seek any work. They end up living the same life as their parents and may even become delinquents just so that they can find some sort of pay. Then, when they have children of their own, they become just like their parents, and so the cycle continues on and on with each generation.

We have immigration from countries like Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay. These people are living in very bad conditions in their countries as well, and they try to get to the Capital of Buenos Aires to seek for a better life. They end up living in the Villas Miserias which are located in the center of town. These poor people establish themselves strategically in those places to be close to the hospitals and medical centers just in case because they may need medical care at some time, and to have a larger opportunity to find a job. These communities are very complex because they sit down and raise a family on government property. They grow very fast even without the structure of a regular community with streets, electricity, water, and sewers. For the authorities, itís very difficult to make them leave that piece of land because the residents do not want to leave their ďhomes.Ē If authorities want to succeed in driving them out of the area, the only option they have is to use force. They are placed in very bad situation as well if they have to do that. Sometimes they have to offer money to them so that they will listen and leave the area, but these people will immediately take another land lot owned by the government, and start building ďhomesĒ again. Then the cycle keeps repeating, and there never really is an end to it.

Like in most of all countries, there exists the churches, and private foundations, who are in charge of collecting clothing, shoes, food, and personal hygiene products for the people that need it the most, but I think that this isnít enough to fix the problem we face of poverty, to let poverty grow is not good for any society, we need to think that along with poverty comes hunger, diseases, criminality, prostitution, disrespect of others, and something that we may think doesnít exist anymore which is slavery. Itís hard to talk about or define slavery, but along with poverty, we are letting it happen to women, children, and the weak.

I think I was very lucky because being a teenager I had the opportunity to go to with the people of the church to some of these Villas Miserias and give to them all the donations we received of food and clothing. It was very hard to see the conditions of the residences in which the families were living in, the streets were dirt roads, and the kids were playing and running through these streets without shoes and you could easily see many of them were malnourished and seemed to be sick. This opportunity that I had to visit these places really moved me and I still see the images in my head of the people and their homes, how each of them had to live. The people living in these villages had a life much worse than anybody else. They never have enough of an income to be able to care for themselves like everybody else. Their conditions are too bad for them to be able to grow out of poverty.

I believe corruption produces more poverty. The governments that want themselves to be the only powerful ones donít work to solve the problems of poverty. The government offers the impoverished people food and small amounts of money so that they can be happy for the time being. They use the poor people so that then they can get their votes and then the same government will continue to be under power. Itís very hard to believe that the government doesnít work to create real solutions that donít create programs that give these people the tools to be able to grow individually obtaining education and training that helps them to insert themselves into the society like workers.

The hospitals have a lot of deficiencies in the infrastructure and in the medical tools, medications, medical machinery. The medics and the nurses have to work under precarious conditions and they have to attend to all the people who come to the hospital. That number is quite large on a daily basis. These hospitals are public and the people donít have to pay. The patients however donít receive excellent care but they do receive the attention that is needed for their emergency. There are also hospitals and clinics that are private that you can go to if you have an insurance or the money to pay for treatment. They do have a better structure and much better conditions than the public hospitals because they are private. One of the things that is interesting is that you can have access to plastic surgery in public hospitals. For example, they will operate your nose, ears, and they will also do breast enlargement. If you need to go to the public hospital to be treated for something, you need to be prepared to be there very early in the morning and wait plenty of hours to be attended to.

In all the different countries it is like poverty originates because of different circumstances, and then it establishes and it is difficult to end it, but I think that one of the best things that we can encourage everyone to do is to receive education and that the children of the world continue to go to school, that they donít drop out under any circumstances. They need to actually finish school and understand that they have the power in themselves to have a better life. They can get jobs, get an income for themselves and for their families if they truly understand that they can do it. I know it will be really difficult to keep track of all the kids that live in these communities so that they can finish their education, but we need to achieve the goal of making sure that kids donít need to go out into the street, take up prostitution, or sell drugs for money. We need to make sure that as a child, everyone who lives in these poor communities needs to go to school so that they can learn and discover the power that they will have by having an education. They will own their own destiny. They need to realize how important they can be to the society. All because they received an education, they will be able to contribute great things to the world. These children will know how to make decisions with an education, smart decisions that will help them take the right path that leads them to a great future. However, the parents of the children need to make the effort to push their kids to stay in school. It is something beneficial to the society of today because we will have more children growing up in a situation that will lead them out of poverty, meaning a much brighter future for everyone. Another thing that will help with ending poverty is to motivate the parents of the children and teach them how important it is for their child to receive an education. The parents, living in poverty usually are people who didnít have the opportunity to stay in school. The reality is that it is hard for kids to go to school because the children sometimes provide for the family, they go out and ask for money and maybe are the familyís only hope for survival. Education is clearly one of the most important factors to reducing poverty, and so we need to act as best we can.