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Classroom Voices

Chicago to India: Finding hope in Delhi's slums

July 27, 2015


By Dominic Smith

As we traveled through a slum in Delhi, India, a few of my American colleagues broke down in tears.

I too was moved, but their shocked reaction took me by surprise because I see deprivation like this every day. Parts of Chicago and the slums of India are similar. As you walk through each community, you see despair in both. Violence and oppression is so regular within these communities that the citizens begin to believe it is the norm. Most people only have the will to survive rather than thrive.

But in India I saw something I would have never thought was possible — I saw unity in poverty.

The people in the slums seem to have few problems with each other — they face enough problems as it is. Citizens living in the slums in India demonstrated no hatred or violence towards each other or us, visitors within their country. The streets were filled with people walking as if they did not have any fear of anyone harassing or harming them.

In Chicago, this is not the case. In Chicago, people stay close by their own blocks in order to feel safe. Traveling to another block is dangerous since outsiders are feared and this fear is often expressed through violence. Chicago has poverty, just like India, but no unity.

In my opinion, this is what people should be crying about. I know that as long as you have unity and remain in solidarity you can rise above any problem no matter how big it is. If you are afraid, it is hard to rise out of poverty. So think about it: We have no hope without unity!

Will change ever occur?

The slums in India may or may not lack hope, but they do have unity.

I understand that both are sad sights to see, but I personally feel that crying about the slums in India is useless. If you have the heart to cry for poverty in another country, at least have the will to fix poverty in your own country. If you are a person who believes change is impossible in your country, at least demonstrate the will to make change in another.

I hope all of us return with the will to actually do something so that tears don’t have to be shed. And always keep hope alive no matter what problem you face. Hope. Hope is essential in poverty, just as much as unity. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese or earth and the sun.

Dominic Smith is from Chicago, Ill. and is a rising senior at Urban Prep Englewood. Thanks to an educational initiative for young men of color living in Chicago, Dominic had the opportunity to travel to India through The Experiment in International Living, which provides innovative and immersive summer abroad programs for high school students. The Experiment is a program of World Learning, a nonprofit organization empowering people, communities and institutions to create a more peaceful and just world.

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