Cultural Awareness

It is typical in American culture for a person to dedicate most of their time to working and being concerned about their own personal struggles. From childhood to adulthood we are taught that we must work hard to obtain the best job or career we can possibly get in order to live a decent life. We spend 9 years in elementary and junior high school, 4 years in high school, and 4 or more years in college. By the time we reach adulthood, we are consumed by the need for money and high social status.

Some people spend years so indulged in their own lives that they neglect the lives of those around them and the problems that people face all over the world. People tend to forget that there are universal problems that negatively affect millions of people across the world, not just the struggles that one’s community faces. It is important for people to be educated on different cultures and struggles in other communities in order to realize what it means to be human and a community.

I did not concern myself with the lives of people living in other countries and their struggles until I had taken a trip to the island, Dominica. This is a small island located in the West Indies where my father was born. Not only is the culture different but the ideals are not comparable to America’s ideals and ways of living. The country does not have same health care services that America offers because they do not have the funding to afford better medical equipment and medicine.

Since the funding is low, I saw many ill people not being able to get any medical attention. Also, the poverty on the island is different from the poverty I see in New York. Although they are poor, homeless people in the city usually have proper clothing based on the season and there are many shelters, food, and clothing drives that help them live a somewhat better life.

WYA’s Solidarity Declaration states that “Recalling that the intrinsic dignity of each person is the foundation of all just human interactions, and recalling that this dignity is inalienable and cannot be mitigated in any degree; we affirm that every person is free, possessing the power to choose to act in accordance with the reality of the dignity of all persons. Solidarity is built on the use of this freedom to willfully recognize fundamental human needs, desires, and rights and to authentically pursue their fulfillment for all persons. It is the foundation for sustainable development and the building of free, just and peaceful societies.”

In Dominica, I saw homeless people that had absolutely no clothing at all and there were no shelters in the area to help them. By seeing poverty like this firsthand, it made me realize that many people are usually ungrateful with the life they have. We complain if we don’t have the best clothes, a car, or the best house but there are people in the world that are not fortunate enough to have these basic necessities. In order to spread this awareness across other communities, we should be able to unite and contribute to others in need. The smallest gesture can change someone’s life.

Written by Alicia Jones, a WYA Headquarters’ Intern from the United States.