A Day in Bani

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It’s the first day of school. We all wake up, we get dressed, and board the bus. We show off our newly bought outfits and school supplies. At school we complain about our classes, the extensive day, and especially the homework. When the final bell rings, we again rush off to after-school activities like sports practices, music lessons, and art classes. We come home after long hours of being busy, and have a relaxing family dinner. In a small town in the Dominican Republic (Bani,) that’s not reality. That’s not even close to reality.

A typical day in Bani, Dominican Republic starts with waking up in a sweltering, car-sized, tin shack, usually along with many brothers, sisters, or other kids. Sometimes they are even all sharing the same bed. After feeding the younger kids and cleaning up the small dirt area you have, you lazily meander off to your “school.” What’s the point of being on time anyway? It is not a real school. There are no books, no paper, no pencils, and no learning materials. The teacher isn’t even fully educated. And what do you do during the only break you have? The sports and arts supplies are scarce, with only one lousy soccer ball, already taken by a friend. You know that this school won’t ever get you into a college, so the hope of living a better life leaves your mind. You go just because your parents want you to.

Poverty is a major issue to kids all over the world, especially in Bani. It prevents kids from getting a proper education, having fun, or achieving any of their goals. Sometimes it is easy to go along with your life, knowing that poverty is an issue, but not doing anything about it. Maybe you donate a couple of old books to a charity, or volunteer to help raise money, but that doesn’t really help. That used to be me, before I saw firsthand how greatly poverty affected kids my age all over the developing world.
My mom traveled to the Dominican Republic to do medical work, and brought home some pictures. The trip looked phenomenal until we saw the images of Bani. Kids walked around without shirts or shoes. They bathed in dirty water from a small bucket together. They played baseball with rocks and sticks, using old newspaper as gloves. But they still had smiles and laughter filling their faces, while we knew kids who were at home complaining about that new shirt they didn’t get. We knew we had to do something.

That is when Kids to Kids formed. My sister, Julia Haney, Amelia Haney, and I started a group to raise money and collect equipment, which we personally delivered, to poorer schools. Sending money somewhere is one thing, but another completely to interact and play with kids who live differently from you. Doing that makes the effort really count.

The first time all four of us went down to the DR, we visited a typical school. It was pretty average (for the Dominican.) We all trudged into the principal’s office carrying a duffel bad full of supplies. She greeted us warmly and started thanking us for all our work and generosity. This had happened at every school we had visited so far, but what came next was unexpected. She went into a closet just behind her, rummaged around for something, came out, and dropped one soccer ball on the floor. It couldn’t really even be called a soccer ball. It was black, with deep tears all over it, weathered down from many years of use. It sat on the floor, a bundle of leather, air and life gone out of it many years ago. “This is the sports equipment for our school,” she stated plainly. All of us were in shock. We took turns trying to kick the ball, which hardly rolled. “It’s not much, but it’s what we have. I’m sure the kids will be just a grateful for your donation as I am.” We couldn’t believe that this one soccer ball was the only sports equipment for over 500 students.

That first trip to the Dominican Republic, I saw that the kids had hope. They still laughed and smiled and had fun even though they were all living in extreme poverty. So, I have continued trying to help kids, now all over the developing world. I try to get friends and family involved in helping to fundraise for kids who live in poverty. There are more people all around the world, who try to reduce poverty, but not nearly enough. There are still schools just like the one that I visited in the DR, waiting for someone to make the extra effort to help change their life. If they have hope, we should too.





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