Category — volunteerism

Lateen Workers

The following entry serves as a second part to the previous entry, “A Lateen in a Latin Country.”

I think anyone with a good set of eyes can tell blue apart from red, yellow from green and white from brown. In my short week at Costa Rica it was obvious to many of the locals that I was different from the majority of the other Americans I was traveling with. Not just because of my personality, but because of the color of my skin. Although the group I was with did an awesome job, the locals of Parismina asked so many questions about what they do at home because, as they insisted, it seemed like they had never worked a day in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great group of people and all of the tasks we took charge of, we finished together. I really don’t think there is a group with more heart. But as I interacted with some of my new friends from places like Canada and Colorado, I was shocked by a turn in the conversation.

“Adan, you are a very motivated and ambitious guy,” one said. I smiled and said “I just want a better life for myself and my parents.” She smiled and responded “I wish that I had a reason to push myself more, or at least to be hungry for something better.” This struck me, and very curious, I had to ask, “Why?”

“Everything has been handed to me all my life. I really do not know the meaning of hard work besides school work.” We both laughed, but I can’t manage to forget her words. I know I cannot speak in generalities, but I came to the conclusion that many other non-ethnic groups really don’t know the meaning of working hard to survive in this greedy world, or at least in the United States of America. [Read more →]

August 5, 2010   No Comments

A Lateen in a Latin Country.

Visiting another house isn’t always the easiest or most comfortable thing to do. Now, in case you haven’t already, imagine visiting a country. Meeting new people can be challenging, so think about meeting over 100 individuals and living in the same space with them for over 300 hours. Sounds scary I know, but I can honestly say that my recent experience in Costa Rica was one that made me grow into a better person.

It all started Friday, July 16 at 4 in the morning, maybe even earlier since I couldn’t fall asleep due to excitement. I got up, looked around my room, and noticed my blue backpack, a small luggage bag full to the brim, my money next to my passport, and my ID. Before I knew it I was hugging my dad and saying my goodbye.

Shortly after, I got a hug myself, but it was actually just the security guard wrapping his arms around me as he searched me (a little too slowly I might add) at the DFW Airport. First stop: Houston. I felt like we arrived there as soon as I closed my eyes. I continued to absorb my surroundings. And all of a sudden it hit me – I was all on my own. After a couple of hours I was finally walking onto the next plane. I made sure I had both of my cameras and my cell phone. I knew the island wasn’t going to have signal for my mobile, but I carried it to listen to music. Hours after I buckled up, the plane’s captain made two announcements: First, to be courteous to the people next to you. Second, to enjoy the first view of the Costa Rican coast. [Read more →]

August 4, 2010   1 Comment

Lateens Join The March

A group of people each with distinct character, yet a group of people wanting something in common. That’s the group of people that gained the world’s attention on May 1, 2010. These special groups of people are mostly immigrants, but are known as illegal aliens. No, not the kind of aliens from some far off galaxy, but humans that are born outside the United States of America. From sea to shining sea, across the plains of Texas, to the monuments in Washington, under the lights of New York, to the hot sun of Arizona and over the hills of California millions and millions of feet marched, leaving a message in every step. The need for opportunity to give back to the nation and the desire of no discrimination.

We filled up roads, we filled up highways, and we even filled up cities. You might be wondering why I mention “we.” It’s simple, I choose to march. Yes, I am legal, but like most Lateens in the U.S. some members of my family are not. Well over 200,000 people per city marched peacefully demanding immigration reform and condemning racial profiling by the state of Arizona.

Still confused? We demand the DREAM Act. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6-year-long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service. On the other hand in Arizona SB1070 requires officials (in state and local levels) to make a “reasonable” attempt to determine the immigration status of a person “if” they come in contact with someone they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in this country undocumented. These laws affect all of us that marched, but the real point here is what happened to me at the march.

When I got out of the car, I looked around and I noticed I was not the only teen out there. In fact I would guess that at least 65 percent of the people marching were between the ages of 15 and early 20s. While it was a great march, I lived a dramatic experience that I hope no one goes through. When I started walking into downtown I could see City Hall full of white shirts and American flags waving in the air. It was inspiring. As I got closer to the spot where everyone was, I realized I was behind the “Minute Men,” also known as the anti-immigrants. At first I thought, “How cool will this be? I can see how the other side views us.” But I was not prepared for this awakening.The group of about 50 people looked at me and my family, pointed their speaker and said “Look at these Mexicans! They don’t pay taxes, they are committing crimes, they are taking our jobs, these aliens need to go back to Mexico.” I could feel my heart skip a beat, my soul burn, my fist clinch hard, and I was ready to attack. The only thing that could save me from acting out was my mom, an alien in their eyes. She held my hand and told me, “Not to get down to their level. To set the example for my little brother that perseverance is the tool to success.” Never would I think that in my own country of birth I would be screamed at like that. Never will I think again that I’m fully safe in this country. I think experiences like this help create a separate American identity for Lateens; it makes us even prouder of our roots because our own (other Americans) will not accept us.  I knew that I could not stoop to their level and judge them. Everyone had a reason to be there – their personal beliefs…which because we live in U.S. we are entitled to. But I will never forget the hate I felt directed toward me and my family. It was just like in elementary school when I read about hatred between whites and blacks, except this time I was not reading about discrimination. I was living it myself.

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June 15, 2010   3 Comments

Hispanic Teens Giving Back

For many Americans, it might be normal to be exposed to volunteerism at some point in their life. This probably starts in high school or through some school involvement or requirement. However, volunteering might not come as easy for Lateens.

It’s not that Hispanics or Lateens don’t like to help others. In fact, Hispanics love to help others but they just might not call it volunteering and they might not do it for a particular organization. Instead, they probably do it for friends or acquaintances as second nature and without thinking of it as volunteering. The Hispanic culture is a collective one rather than an individualistic culture, but Hispanics are more familiar with helping friends or family members deal with their every day challenges than organized programs that have a common goal.

The reasons vary. Hispanics tend to have larger families than other ethnicities. Parents might work longer hours; therefore, teenagers are often taking care of their younger siblings and as a consequence do not have the extra time to devote to volunteering.  Many Lateens work after school or on the weekends in order to help support the family.  Also, religion and church activities play a significant role in most Hispanic lives so that the relevance of volunteering outside of the church is obscured.

Even though Lateens might not be very active in volunteering they can contribute in valuable ways to volunteer organizations, for instance, by bringing diversity and compassion.   At the same time, Lateens can gain self-esteem, motivation and focus in their formative years.  Everyone can gain by better involving Lateens in volunteering activities.

April 19, 2010   1 Comment