First and foremost...this post is not to offend anyone that uses the phrase, this post isn't to make you feel bad if you've said or used the phrase. This post is written to show you a new perspective, one to make you think. This post isn't written to make your problems or difficult situation seem unimportant...it is simply written to show you something different.
So a common way to use the phrase "The struggle is real" might be a stay at home or working mom who has washed, and washed, and washed clothes to keep up with her busy and active family...she posts a picture of all the clean clothes...IN A HUGE MOUND...needing to be folded and states "the struggle is real". It's Friday morning and you've had a long work week and a Starbucks coffee is the only thing that will get you through...and we hear "the struggle is real".
Here in Sucua we work with quite a few youth. Each has a different story, and is on their own journey in life. Our goal and desire is to come along side them and support them, show them God's love, and teach them how to be followers of Christ in the real world.
Recently we've been able to spend time with some college students who have been on vacation, and some kids who are about to embark on their college journey. I (Jill) have spent a lot of listening to their stories, and comparing them to my own experience.
Your college experience may have been somewhat similar...Senior year of high school I applied to several colleges in the Michigan area. I was accepted to several and was left to make a big decision of WHERE to go to college? Something far, but not too far. A place that offered several majors to keep my options open, an environment that was big, but not too big. Get the idea? I remember once I finally decided where I was going to go and knew who my college roommate was going to be, our moms took us on a shopping trip. We'd need new bedding (comforter, sheets, pillows, etc), we'd need new bathroom toiletries, we bought some kitchen items to share and use in our small kitchenette and our moms both jumped at the opportunity to give us some of their well used kitchen items to use in our dorm! We purchased/or got all the learning tools necessary to help me be successful (I took the old family desktop, bought new folders, paper, etc).
For me, college was an expectation. There wasn't really even another thought of what else I would do. After high school came college and that was it! period! So you get the idea...you can probably relate to some extent.
This is NOT even close to what kids here experience...here's a brief glimpse and then you can read some REAL STORIES
Kids here (in Sucua - a third world, jungle community) take a test usually toward the end of their last year of high school. Similar to our ACT/SAT. Based on the scores of their test (if the scores are high enough) THEY ARE PLACED at public University (it could be close, it could be far). They are also placed, based on their scores, into a career path. In other words, they don't get a choice of WHERE to go, or really what to study. Unless, they choose to go to a private University, which is very expensive, especially when a typical family income is around $800-$1,000/month. State Universities have lower costs, however, they are very competitive, because they only accept a certain number of students each year.
Most of the kids we work with, are lower income families that fall in the ball park of $600 - $1,000/month. They are the first generation in their families to study at a University. Most are not encouraged by their families/parents to study because the family could use their help/support around the house or on the family farm. Being that their parents didn't study or further their education, and they have never been out of the jungle, they don't understand and see the benefits of further education. Many of the youth haven't been outside of Sucua, and neither have their parents!
THEIR STRUGGLE IS REAL:
The struggle is Real - Gabriel is 23 years old and is from a Shuar community about 1.5 hours from Sucua. He left his parents care when he was 14 years old and entered a program for jungle kids here in Sucua. The program operated like a boarding school of sorts. They provided room/board/food and he was able to study at a high school in Sucua (which is a better school compared to the school he would have studied at near his jungle community). Gabriel graduated one of the top in his class. He had to wait and work a year to save up money. He took his exam and was then placed at a University in Puyo (about 2.5 hours from Sucua). Gabriel had never been to a city larger than Sucua (Sucua is not that big...everything is mostly within walking distance). Gabriel shared that he went to Puyo with a backpack full of clothes. His parents send him some money when they can (but it isn't often being that there are 7 other siblings). Gabriel did earn a scholarship for having such good grades which goes towards his rent (when the government university he studies at has money...he has it set up to go toward his rent). He shared with us that he was so low on money he shared a bed with a guy the first month of school! Gabriel rents a room (a bed, and a small 2 stove top burner stove to do some cooking) for about $60/month. The youth group he was attending here in Sucua raised money to buy him a mattress, and someone gave him a bed frame. His mom didnt take him shopping for sheets, or take him to get new pots/pans...He literally went with the bare necessities. 't has classes everyday from 7am-1pm. He tries to find work when he can. He said sometime his landlord takes him to work on the farm and then discounts the work toward his rent. He also works with Roberto's grandma (who lives about 20 minutes away) around her house occasionally on the weekends. As for food...he lives on a lot of rice, tuna, and egg (very common meal among the lower class families here).
Gabriel literally lives by faith! While he doesn't understand the lesson at this point, we know God is preparing him for something awesome! He is involved in youth group, and YoungLife. He said he tries to stay busy as to not focus on his problems. "School and God" he said!
I would say his "struggle is real"!
Damaris is 18 years old and was born and raised in Sucua. She has never been outside of Sucua on her own. Damaris is a girl I have been discipling for the last couple of years. It has been interesting to watch her story unfold the last couple years. Damaris graduated at the top of her class. She is a hard worker, and knows how to do the basic things to get good grades. However, the first time she took her standardised test....she did horrible and received no placement. She took it a second time, and received a placement at a University in Loja. Lola is 16 hours away from Sucua! For a girl who has never left Sucua by herself...she is overwhelmed and very afraid to say the least. Damaris comes from a lower-middle class family. She is the first one in her family to further their education. Her mother has committed to helping her pay rent, but nothing beyond that. Damaris is hoping to take her bed, mattress, small kitchenette, and extra refrigerator...however, trying to convince her mom of those necessities has been difficult. There is one family computer, and while she wants to take it with her, and sees the value of having one, the reality is that it's not going to happen. We've tried to share with her that her mom committing to give her rent money is HUGE. Her mom may not understand at this point because she never went to college, and she hasn't ever moved to another city.
She understands the importance of a church family and community. Our prayer is that she get connected into a church right away and that she would get "adopted" into a family to help get her on her feet. Our pray and hope is open up a door for a job to help her pay for her studies and food.
I would say her "struggle is REAL"
While I could look at all the missing pairs of socks that lie on our guest bed, wondering "where are all the other 'friends'?" or "how in the world do I always have a pile of unpaired socks?" and say/think/write/post "the struggle is real..."
... is it?...