“Life is hard” – confesses the mom in timid tears while holding the baby tightly in her squalid arms. We shatter inside and tremble for a second. Without even crossing glances, we know with certainty that our thoughts are set on the different combinations of equally insignificant things that the price of the medicine the baby desperately needs would be worth back in London.
This is one among the countless moving reactions that we experience while meeting the families in the GK community. The initial purpose is to do surveys house by house to find out what the water consumption and water needs, income, expenses and skills are. However, often the conversation starts to divert, digging deeper, and unveiling concerns and worries of a scope even our imagination finds it difficult to grasp.
“Why is the world such an uncomfortable one?” – I think to myself. It is naive to say this over and over again. It is childish to complain about how unfair the world is. It is ignorant to express the shock of the inequality that overflows the world. Yet, seeing it with your own eyes, listening to their words with crystalline attention, and sensing the feelings of these people in your own skin surpasses the impact that any newspaper, story or event can have on you. “What are the underlying reasons of the supremely unequal distribution of wealth?” – I ponder uninterruptedly. “If we were to change something that could have a powerful and positive effect on how the world works, what would it be?” – I question, thinking on my future, vision and purposes.
After surveying half of the families in the community, we have gathered an estimate of the water consumption and water needs, income, expenses and skills. This information is essential for the project. However, we soon realise that our learning goes much further. We realise how rarely these people feel listened to. Even if we could never fully comprehend what they have undergone, these experiences bring us steps further in empathy. Steps further towards conceiving the grief of losing your dignity and the frustration of permanently being looked down based on the value of your pocket. Steps further towards admiring the resilience they all share in bringing the shattered pieces together time after time, and pushing through this uncomfortable life. Pushing when there is no hope, door or light. Pushing for the loved ones that remain. Pushing without the loved ones that are not with us anymore. This experience brings us steps further towards understanding the Genius of the poor.
In the words of Tito Tony (GK founder): “Genius, I have discovered, lies not just in individual brilliance in some area of human activity, but in a supremely positive, humane attitude to life, to its ups and owns, to its unfairness and its opportunities, and above all to other people – family, neighbour or stranger”