Today was a day that I know will stay with me for a long time. But I hope it says with me forever.
Joining the ICON youth group on their charity day, I got to see parts of Tonga that I potentially would have missed otherwise. I would have returned to Australia with a checklist consisting of all the ‘sights and scenes’, but void of the vital experience which is understanding what life is like for the people behind a country’s curtains.
This is especially important in developing countries, as with the spotlight kept on glamourised tourist attractions, there is a large portion of people and areas also in need of attention, that remain unfortunately unseen. From experience, I can say that my original google image search of Tonga presented a different reality to what I’ve encountered since my arrival.
And since my arrival, today brought me closer to a sad truth. It’s the circumstances and conditions that many people find themselves in. I won’t dedicate this post to identifying the political, economical, and cultural reasons of why, I’ll just describe what was.
There were a lot of tears and emotional stories, but all sadness subsided in the wake of the gratitude that was shown for the single bags of groceries we were donating. Gratitude that I had never shown when I would push a trolley full of them to my car each weekend.
Amongst the rust and dismantling housing, I discovered that there are some things that better stand the tests of time. Faith in God, music, laughter, the support of those close to you, and a genuine appreciation for the little things, when you have very little at all to begin with.
As an individual, I can do my part to help because of organisations like ICON Tonga and my Australian Volunteer program, that seek to unite individuals to address bigger issues. However, making a start can be as simple as showing more appreciation in our daily lives at home, and a deeper interest in the countries we visit while traveling.
I learned that to lend a helping hand, you don’t have to reach out too far, and you certainly don’t need to be holding much.