I remember the moment that I fell in love with my host father.
I had been working with the Land Reform Community for a couple of weeks at this point. It was the project period for my globalization and development program in Thailand, and I had decided to work with a community of scavengers. Working together, we created a two-fold project: a survey about the people living in their community and a documentary highlighting some of the individuals.
The morning of the survey, around ten of us gathered together and created a plan for the day. We broke up, going house to house, shack to shack, asking questions about occupation, family life, and education. And when the day was done, we came back together to discuss what the day brought. Lead by the community organizer who worked in the community, we talked about what’d we’d learned from the survey. There were the general reactions such as being glad to get to know those who live so close better. Everyone was glad that they had done it, and were excited about the prospect of using it in the future.
My host father isn’t one who will speak up often in a crowd. He is not a leader. But, when he speaks, you know his words have meaning. He speaks with his heart. And his words that day were so simple, but meant so much to me.
“I didn’t know how many other people in our community didn’t get an education. It makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one.”
I wonder if he’s ever understand how much he’s taught me. A man who doesn’t know how to read or write, a man who’s occupation is to dig through the trash, yet he has been more influential in my life that most teachers I’ve had.
It’s so easy for those of us in more developed countries to take education for granted. I know that I fall victim to it often. I complain about how I wish my $160,000 university education (which I received for free) was better. And of course, we shouldn’t stop trying to improve education here simply because there are others out there who have it worse off than we do. But, I think perspective is important to keep in the back of our minds.
As it turned out, one of the highlights of the film was education. The older scavengers in the community were the ones who worked eight hours a day of hard labor because of their lack of education. They could see how much the lack of education had impacted their lives for the worse.
And once again, my host fathers’ gentle brilliance came through in the film. “I want children from every country all over the world to receive education,” he said.
Every time I hear those words, no matter how often, it breaks my heart. You can sense his sadness. You can sense the years of pain and hard work. But, most of all, you can sense his sincerity. He is not asking for his life to be better, but for the lives of the future to have more than he did. He so truly wants better for the children of the world. He is a man who takes nearly nothing for granted.
What do you take for granted as an educator? As a student? As a person?
Here is a clip of the film discussing education
For more information and to help make this project a reality, please check out The Khon Kaen Scavenging Project on Indiegogo.