2014-2015 Essay Contest Winner: Eva Sombrowski
Eva Sombrowski, 16
Winner, 15-16 Age Group
The Fernie Academy
Fernie, BC, Canada
With both hands on the fence I stare out over the water in front of me. I see what is directly before my eyes, but the sting of the barbed wire is enough to remind me that there is more beyond where I stand.
When my class travelled to Peru last year as a trip with the purpose of learning Spanish as well as helping orphaned boys and impoverished families, I was able to step over the “fence.” I left everything at the side of the pond and dove in. Rather than merely seeing the surface of the world, which is what I had previously desired, I opened myself up in order to see everything under the water. The principle of our trip was to live deliberately, to go and get a new perspective of the world and to help others.
A few days into the trip, my group took a bus to a slum outside of the capital city, Lima. Our school had raised money to give to three families in order to help them buy food and to pay for school or any other necessities. With each home made of cardboard boxes and spare parts I saw, and each person I met, another object fell into my intellectual ray. I was living with my eyes open, trying to discover and understand the life there that was juxtaposed to my own. Immediately my problems became nonexistent as all of my energy surged into being helpful. I was so humbled by what our donations meant to the families. On our last stop, we hiked up a dry, rocky mountainside so steep I was nearly crawling on my hands and knees. At the pinnacle of the slope, I ducked inside a home, with my teacher, to meet the parents of the household - a woman lying in bed and a man sitting next to her. My attempts to immerse myself in the culture and language had paid off as I immediately understood the man’s explanation that she was sick with cancer and teeming with cysts. My throat tightened but the smile on my face remained at how grateful they were for our visit. We then asked if their kids went to school. The father told us that only three of the four children did. I will never forget when he explained why. He said Porque el no puede ver, and that is when I had to thank them for having me in their home and step outside. I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face as the meaning truly hit home. The mother was terminally ill with cancer, and their son couldn’t go to school because he was blind. It upset me that everyone I met had so much less than they deserved, yet they had so much more hope than I had expected.
It took me a while to pull myself together and once I did I realized just how much more of the world I could see. Prior to my experiences in Peru I was ignorant, this world existed right underneath my nose, but it was not what I was looking for, therefore was not the world I found - as Thoreau states. I gained a greater understanding of the diversity that exists on earth and through this experience I was allowed to look beyond the average visual ray. I learned to always live deliberately and to continue my every day search for the endless opportunity that exists when one widens his or her view.