Lost Without Maria

A ray of sunshine peeks through Maria’s window, picking up all the swirling dust particles in her room along with it. She stretches, gives a big yawn and shakes her younger brother awake a couple beds away. She’s the oldest of 6 at 10 years old. Today is her birthday.

Yawning and pulling the flowing black hair out of her tired eyes, she almost trips over a couple short hooligans chasing each other among the planks, boards, tin sheets, and mismatched  fabric curtains that make up her family’s home in Honduras. Her mother shoves a Baleada in her hands and says “Clean up! Today’s a big day! You’re going to help your father and I take care of this family. Today’s the day you come work at the factory.”

Growing up, Maria walked her siblings to school, clothed them, fed them, washed them, and tucked them into their beds at night, fully prepared to do the exact same thing the very next day. Her parents didn’t have much time to dedicate to raising them, but nobody expected them to because if it weren’t for them, nobody would eat. Now it’d be Rodrigo’s turn to raise the little ones… she laughed to herself. That 8 year old could barely boil water without burning it, let alone take care of 4 F5 tornadoes. But that wasn’t her concern at the moment. Today was Maria’s birthday, but more importantly, today was the day she became an adult.

She scarfed down the last of her food while simultaneously pulling up her left pantleg with her left hand and pulling her shirt over herself with her right. She knew mom would leave her if she didn’t hurry: she couldn’t be late. She spotted a box she hadn’t seen before. An unremarkable, crumpled, roughly handled Nike box with the word “Cumpleaños” scrawled on top. Excited, she lifts the lid, and sees the most beautiful pair of pink and white trainers she had ever seen in her life. They were laced up in neon yellow, with even an extra pair of neon green laces. Her mother watches her lace them up in the doorframe with a glint in her eye.

“Some of the stitching is off, and the sole is a bit offset… it didn’t pass the quality control standards, but it was one of the best pairs I could fin—”

Before her mother can finish, Maria cuts her off with the tightest hug she could muster.

The pair set off on the 2 mile trek to the Nike factory that employs her family. “Thank God I’m not out there farming coffee beans with the Garcia family… I can’t believe they work for 14 hours a day! Sometimes they let us off after 11 hours if we’ve been sewing fast, right mommy?”

“Shh baby, something’s wrong.”

The labor coordinator stands outside of the familiar building with a giant swoosh on the front, but something was different this time. He was accompanied by a man nobody had ever seen before, who wasn’t Honduran, and wasn’t dressed like them. The labor coordinator was translating for him: “Due to increasing scrutiny over Nike’s child labor laws, we are forced to let go of anybody who is under the legal working age of 14, Nike is doing its best to become a global leader in sustainable efforts, and we’re starting on a local level…”

— — —

“STEPHEN!” the barista yells out. A slim man with thin framed glasses and a satchel grabs his chai tea latté and sits in a comfortable air conditioned corner, where the rays of sun are just out of the reach of his MacBook’s screen. He takes a cautionary sip, decides the coffee is too hot, sets it down, and scrolls through his daily newsfeed. He comes across an article: “Ethics Today: Nike Cracking Down On Child Labor in Developing Nations.” He double taps his airpod.

“Eric, have you checked the news today?”

“no, dude, what’s…”

“Eric they listened to us. They read our petition! Nike is making a change in their factories and have committed to only hire people of legal age to work!”

“Dude, that’s incredible! I’m in the bathroom right now though bro, let me call you back”

Stephen double taps his airpod, leans back into his chair, takes a sip of his coffee, and burns his mouth. He doesn’t care though, because he just helped countless numbers of kids not be exploited by unethical capitalist labor. Stephen smiles to himself as the rays of light around him illuminate the dust dancing in the air.

Maria’s family still needs money, and the sad truth of the world is that it’s not uncommon for laid off children turn to crime, prostitution, or simply starve to death. While on the surface it may seem like child labor is a standalone issue, once the dust settles, we realize that the issue also stems from a mentality that justifies underhanded business tactics that undermine basic human needs. Financial gain for Maria’s family is a difficult thing to secure in a capitalist system, and the responsibility ultimately rests on Nike’s shoulders. Over time, as values shift in this small global village of ours, maybe responsibilities like these will get their opportunity to be prioritized by the people who actually hold them. We take care of our own in this global village, and we can’t expect our biggest economic forces to behave like toddlers forever – because in the grand scheme of things, on a timeline level as well as a conduct level, corporations are just trying to figure out what they can get away with (like toddlers). Hopefully, they’ll be able to learn from consequences (like adults) and help pave a brighter future for Maria.

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New Perspective on Poverty

On the topic of our discussion about how wicked problems in industries effect poverty and people, it was one of the main points that resonate with what I have been studying ever since high school. From classes I have took in high school, we studied about these topics in AP Human Geography, one of our main topics we talked about is migration on urbanism and ruralism and why people migrate. Many of the causes that caused migrations stems from the wicked problems. Connecting this class’s subject and what I have learned in high school gave more insights on the sociological aspects of things. I felt like I can share a lot of important points about poverty and issues about it. For example, one of our in-class activities were to discuss if corporations are the ones to hold responsible on pollutions. For my group, I advocated that no, corporations should not have that responsibility, but government should be the one regulating it. Although I advocated that, I brought up points such as government have lobbyist that benefits the corporations. It was one of the activities where we had a big discussion and bringing up past experiences in our classes such as Human Geography or American Government. I felt like I have contributed a lot to the conversations, and I wished we had more people to join in and shared their opinions about the topic.

Major takeaway from last week’s topic is mainly about the YES and NO of how poverty is directly or indirectly resulted from wicked problems. For the most part, many people agreed that corporations are directly affecting poverty, discussing about how urban and rural poverty are different and how they are being affected by greed. Major takeaways from that is that there is no solid answer on how poverty is affected. From both articles the author was very convincing on how there was direct or indirect causes to poverty. I thought it was interesting how interesting rural and urban poverty is different. Through rural poverty, it effects the long run and the sustainability of the rural land. For example, if the land is polluted or ruin, the land cannot be used to produce profit like agricultural. Urban poverty is affected by money and opportunity. People in the city will go homeless, and in return having debt or bad credit scores can lead to disadvantages in the city life. Insurances will go up and there are many economic downsides like gaining a job. I thought it was interesting just seeing how opportunity and poverty are different in rural and urban environment.

Mindfulness exercises have I have done before class or even when I have time is I walk around and enjoy the weather. I experience a connection to myself more, it feels more holistic if I take a breather and go outside and enjoy the weather and think. Focusing on myself and gathering my thoughts have helped me clear my mind and get me into the mood of doing homework and overall making me happier.

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Is this a corporation issue or a government?

This week, we were encouraged to spend ten minutes in mindfulness practice. I have loved the five minutes, but with ten, I have felt more relaxed and more calm! The coloring of the mandala i didn’t really take anything away from. I like coloring and that is very calming for me, however, I’m just not sure why it wasn’t clicking that day. I did more of the mindfulness practices like we have been doing in class, outside of class, and it has helped tremendously. I am a very natural “stress ball” is what my mom calls me. Even if the problem is small, something in my head amplifies the amount and it’s a major panic. If something stresses me out, I want to quit and for most instances, I will just stop and come back to it hours later because I get so frustrated. This week, we had a major project due and I was not handling it well. I have always struggled in situations that stress me out, but more recently it has gotten extremely worse due to some medical issues. The mindfulness practice exercises have been helping alleviate some of that stress and just really take my mind somewhere else for just a bit! It has helped me sort out some of my thoughts without really looking so deep and so emotionally, but rather rationally and with a clear head! If there was anything I would do differently, it would be to try and take at least ten minutes a day to mediate. I have every couple days, but I know if I did it more of more things I find as “meditating” more often, it would be better!

I did not receive the weekly reading, however in discussion we talked about if big corporations should be involved in helping with poverty. I can see both yes and no sides. Yes, it would be a great investment for jobs, but I feel like there would be a power struggle between corporations and people over the land and how everything is run! If a corporation became bigger and wanted to expand, it may cause issues with other people also trying to expand as well as recruiting. Ultimately, our team picked yes! However, I feel like there should be a specifically set rules to protect people from falling prey to power hungry corporations that screw over their people and put them right back where they started. Even if big corporations did get involved, why isn’t the government doing more that they can to help? My question has always been, why can’t the government just print more money? They set up the currency in the first place, yet they expect you to have all this money and pay for all your debt. Yes, if the minimum wage went up, there would be inflation. However, if the people in the government years and years ago could come up with a currency and how the “money system” is supposed to world, why can’t we alter that to help?

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Sustainability and the Poor

This week we continued to talk about sustainability and the effects is has on the poor. For my  reading, I was assigned to the “NO” article. While reading this article I was somewhat taken back by the use of the words poor people. The “NO” article talked about different ways that may be beneficial or helpful to those who live in poverty. Unfortunately when we discussed this with our groups I was unable to hear thanks to my lack of computer skills. I feel as though I would have agreed more with the “YES” side of things. When I read my article it was hard to really point out what they were talking about. I felt as though they jumped around and had all these alternatives to “help” but in reality it sounded as though they were  insulting those who do not make large incomes. In my opinion I think we should all be able to help each other out no matter the circumstances we live in. 

A major takeaway I  had from this topic was the fact that the use of poor people was used so often. I do not identify people based off of their income or living situations. It is obvious that there is an issue with the way we run our economy. It can be difficult for those who do live in poverty to live a normal life where they do not have to stress day to day about what their next meal may be. I feel like we should all be able to work together to create a world where we can live equally  and all enjoy the beautiful things in life. Realistically looking at this I do not believe that it will ever happen, but a girl can dream. Sharing resources would be a perfect example to live in a world with less stress. 

This week I was unable  to reflect on mindfulness. I had a lot to accomplish this week and did not manage my time well enough to actually take care of my well-being. All week I have been grinding on assignments and projects  trying to meet my deadlines. It is obvious to me that I need to learn better time management skills and take care of myself. This weekend I plan on having a girls night to relax and enjoy some time away from class work. I printed out an extra copy of the mandala we were given to color in class on Tuesday, so that I may use it this weekend to meditate and calm  myself. Coloring has always been a good way for me to relax and get my thoughts to clear up. It has been a hobby of mine since I was a child. For me, when I meditate it is a very calming experience. I like to envision this  beautiful scene where I am standing in a garden looking at all the beautiful flowers. There is a waterfall that flows into this pond of clear blue water where I sit and take in the calming essence of water, flowers, and the beautiful sky.

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We Need A Change

I found this past week’s reading to be rather interesting. I had the “NO” side of the argument and I agreed with most everything the author mentioned. One of the points that stood out to me was about how we need to find ways to help the poor, because in return it will help the environment. If the people in poverty succeed and live a good life then our environment will too. The author mentioned that the government needs to try and help get more people involved in their community. If those who live in poverty are more involved then they will care about what their community looks like and want to help it. One of the points the “YES” author makes is about how companies are in it for the money. I completely agree, but sometimes you have to do what you have to to get the environment healthy again. 

The past few classes we have also been learning about meditation and the benefits it has on your day to day life. Every time before class we take time to meditate. We have also been encouraged to meditate outside of class and take 10 minutes everyday to calm our minds. Now I will admit that I don’t do it for 10 minutes everyday, but I do meditate when I remember to. I need to work on setting time aside to clear my mind and meditate some. It helps when I do it in class so I don’t know why I don’t incorporate it into my everyday life. There are so many ways to practice mindfulness, so I would love to do some more research and find other ways to practice it. It’s something I’m really interested in, I just have made time to do it. I have heard about mindfulness journaling and I think that would be a great thing to add to my everyday life. 

We recently were assigned an infographic project which I’m actually pretty excited about. At first my group had no idea what we were doing, but after Tuesday’s class we were able to fully understand it. I’m excited to dive deeper into our chosen topic and get a better understanding of everything going on in the world. I like how we each will be doing our own topic so we can focus on specific information. I think this way we can each educate our other members better on our chosen articles.  Although I’m excited for this project I’m still confused on how we’re supposed to be creating our own infographic. Once we get all of our information it may just come naturally when designing our infographic, but until then I may be stressing a little bit. 

I’m sad that we’re coming to the end of this class in a few weeks, but I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned. Not only has this class helped me know more about sustainability and the environment, but it has also helped me with dealing with my stress. Everything I’ve learned is something that I will definitely keep with me for the rest of my life.

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Projects and Poverty

Hi friends,

This week we went from five minutes of mindfulness practice daily, to ten minutes. This week has been super tough for me. It has been filed with so much stress and anxiety. My graphics class for interior design had our first big project due on Wednesday and I spent 30-40 hours in the lab this weekend. All day Monday and Tuesday I was in Human Sciences room 425 working on my project. It was so easy to spend hours doing the tedious activities that when I’d look down and 5 hours had passed, I wouldn’t even think twice. I did my ten minutes of mindfulness practice as breaks from working. I would stand up and pace while focusing on my breathing. It made my body feel better to get in some stretching and also relaxed my mind a lot. I’m really glad that we were given this “assignment”, because I wouldn’t have given myself any breaks otherwise.

On Tuesday I was placed in a breakout group with three other girls that I’ve never been in a group with. I actually joined class from 425 while working on my project so there were five other people in the room listening every time I spoke. Two of us had to read the NO reading and two read the YES article. When discussing if corporations should get involved with poverty, me and another girl said no. We both believed that it would give corporations too much power and we already have issues with monopolies. I said it would be difficult to try to and make guidelines to make sure no one has too much power. But I also see how it could be helpful. The other two girls saw our point but believed the benefits outweighed the risks and decided to put YES on our jamboard. We said yes, but with regulations to protect people from power hungry companies.

It is always hard when not everyone agrees but I think it was nice that we could come to a solution. No toes were stepped on and we came to an agreeable solution, but I think it was a good learning experience on how to work together to come to a conclusion.

Something that has been sticking with me from the discussion is that companies often push those in poverty into locations where they know they have no chance to thrive. From when I was born until I was ten my family was highly involved in an organization called feed the hungry. It was when we lived in Houston so every thanksgiving at 5:00 am we would go to downtown Houston and start setting up for the thanksgiving styled meals we would give out to the homeless. I am so glad that my parents had my brother and I involved in that because it really showed us that the important things have nothing to do with money and everything to do with family. With that being said, I have always had a heart for the less fortunate so this week after our discussion I have been trying to think of more ways that I could help and get involved.

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Its not the main reason

I have contributed to the learning community in regard to the recent curse topic is by sharing my views on what the rural and urban poverty means to me. I also have been participating in mindfulness practice in the course through the mandala and through the talks. During this discussion, I was part of the yes side meaning that poverty is responsible for global environmental degradation. One thing that I wished that I could have expressed is that I do not believe that poverty is responsible for global environmental degradation. I think the main things that cause global degradation include overpopulation, deforestation, landfills, etc. I think that poverty might have something to do with global degradation in a way but it’s not the main reason. Some major takeaways that I had was actually learning how to start up a topic conversation in the class. I also took away some mindfulness practice ideas. During out mindfulness practices at the beginning of each class, it has taught me to do it on my own. With practicing mindfulness on my own it has helped become calmer in situations and has helped me clear my mind in a good way. During my mindfulness practices, I used the calm app. Within the calm app I listened to music and sounds and closed my eyes. This practice actually relaxed me in a way that I felt good. I did not worry about the things that I have to deal with, and I just cleared my mind and let myself be free. It was nice to know that I could achieve this and not have to worry about everything so much. It helped me realize that meditation is something that I should set aside time for every day. 

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Mandalas, Mindfulness, and Much to Think About

This week, as a class we embarked further on our journey of mindfulness and sustainability. I very much so enjoyed this week because we were asked to up our time practicing mindfulness to ten minutes instead of five. This was absolutely perfect for this week because the due dates, assignments, and even extracurricular activities I had going on were through the roof. I can say it had been the most jam-packed week of my life! However, by practicing mindfulness and taking time to step back and reflect, pray, and be still, I was able to bring my focus back to the center of things and power through. We colored mandalas this week which was also very exciting and stress-easing. What I find comforting is that on Tuesday when we practiced mindfulness, I was in the Human Sciences lab for sixteen hours finishing a project. The stillness and quiet of those moments really helped me declutter my thoughts and lower my anxiety. Mindfulness is definitely a practice that has shown to be beneficial in my day to day life and is something that I want to keep implementing in my schedule.

            Post-mindfulness practice, we discussed our articles that we read concerning poverty and sustainability. Much like last week, we were each assigned an article. One article argued that poverty does not impact sustainability, the environment, etc. And the other argued that yes, poverty and the poor do negatively impact sustainability, the economy, etc. I received the “no” article, which was honestly kind of hard for me to agree with and defend because I do personally think that the poor do have their impact on the environment. We also dug into the topic of the difference between the rural poor and the urban poor. Truthfully, I did not know that there was a different in their impacts! I did however find this information interesting and useful. In my discussions, I found myself conflicted when thinking about the impact that those in poverty have on us. Don’t big corporations make just as bad as an impact? They burn mass amounts of fuel and emit terrible gasses into our atmosphere. They use child labor and sweatshops. They abuse the poor into doing work for little pay. Isn’t THAT an issue as well? Why are we taking jabs at the poor? The other side of me would argue that they are not productive members of society if they are not working and contributing to the community. Homelessness and the litter they may have does in fact contribute negatively. I had a lot to ponder about and a lot of self-evaluation and what I call “bias-searching” to do after my discussions in the breakout rooms.

            On Tuesday we were also assigned a new infographic project. I enjoyed diving into the wicked problems of the interior design world so I am very much intrigued to research them more! We also will be presenting them to a person in the actual design world, so I am looking forward to seeing what that has in store!

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Coloring and Poverty

This week we were asked to up our game in the practice mindfulness instead of just 5 minutes a day to 10 minutes a day. Honestly, I was pretty excited to be challenged to take extra time out of my day to practice mindfulness because it definitely calms my stress and anxiety. My mindfulness practice allows me to clear my head. This week was super stressful because I had a huge project due that took a toll on my anxiety. At moments I had to step away from my project and just take a break to calm my anxiety. Stepping away helped me to give my full attention back to my project. This week for our in class mindfulness practice we were asked to print off a mandala to color. This mindfulness practice was by far my favorite of all the in class mindfulness practice we have done. This was my favorite because I like coloring and it was very peaceful and helped with calming my stress. 

After our mindfulness practice, we jumped right into talking about the article we read before class which talked about how poverty affects the government. We were assigned a yes or no article just like before. And just like the last yes or no article we were assigned i read the no article. The no article was saying that no, poverty does not play a major role in the degradation of the environment. The author was saying that the ties between poverty and degradation are not as clear as the author described in the yes article. I understood and mostly agreed with the things the author was saying. The article states two different reasonings that poverty is not completely linked to degradation of the environment. The first is that environment degradation is actually from land-clearing, argo-chemical use, and water pollution. This also states that the privileged sometimes pushes the poor to already degraded land causing the land further damage. The second statement was that population growth doesn’t have a link to environment degradation either. That the people that are too poor to invest, causes further degradation. 

In our breakout room, my group and I discussed how we feel corporations should help those in poverty. My group felt that corporations should but we were kind of on the fence about it. We felt that corporations could help but also probably won’t. They have the money and funds to help but we felt that they could also have other intentions that couldn’t always have the people’s best interest. We felt that the corporations could give them easier access to jobs or create programs for housing and practice sustainability. We also talked about how we felt that corporations also sometimes make things worse by turning their back on the interests. Most of the time corporations can make the issues worse by not putting their money or work where it belongs. Overall, we felt it would be a good idea for corporations to invest in the lives of people in poverty, but they probably will never have the right intentions. 

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Poverty and Mindfulness Mandalas

This week was all about sustainability and poverty. Throughout this week we looked into the debate on how poverty and sustainability interact and affect one another. I read the article that was supporting the argument that sustainability and poverty are connected. The author argues that poverty is responsible for global degradation. I agree that the poverty is a vector of environmental degradation and that poverty caused a deeper poverty perspective. Poverty is a huge problem in our world today, and it effects so many people worldwide. I find it both interesting and incredibly unfortunate that poverty also has such a negative impact on the environment as well as all those struggling to make it through each day. I talked about in our group conversation that bigger corporations should help developing countries with their economic issues and in the long run, help with the environmental degradation all throughout the world. I think that if a company has the means to help out, that they should feel inclined to do so. In the topic of environmental degradation and sustainability, I feel that any help is good, and I think that it would be quite hard to make matters worse than they already are. I do wish that I had talked more about the benefits of helping out developing countries and not just that “it can’t get much worse so they might as well help,” mentality. My major takeaways are that there is so much that we can do to help the environment and while we need big changes for a sustainable thing, no matter how small the changes are they matter. Long story short, we must start trying to run operations in a more sustainable way. Also, a huge problem in the world is poverty, and we must help out and try and fill the divide between the rich and poor.

               Recently I have really been trying to calm my anxiety and find my inner peace. Since the global pandemic has immerged, I have been finding my anxious tendencies hard to keep under wraps. In general, I have just been very on edge and uneasy about the uncertainties in the world. However, each week that I practice mindfulness and meditation I find it easier to calm my mind and relax. Every day I sit in my chair in my room in a relaxed position and let my mind clear and focus on my breathing. I focus on the things that I know I can control, and it helps me relax. This week I really enjoyed the mandala part of our mindfulness session. I have not colored in a very long time and I found it fun to do that again, it feels like I was getting back in touch with my inner little kid. I find that in my busy schedule putting 10 minutes aside everyday has a lot of positive affects on me. Overall, I am more relaxed, and I have been finding myself more at peace in my everyday life.

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