We Americans love low prices. For everything. Take, sugar, for example. Ever wonder how the price is kept low?
This morning I stood by a pile of animal entrails covered in a million flies while all around me sugar plantation workers picked through miles of garbage looking for something to eat, sell or wear. These are the people employed for $2 a day during harvesting season by a U.S. sugar manufacturer based in Florida.
These workers are Haitian and slaves of a sort. The sugar company owns their homes. Over time the company has outsourced most of its milling operations to other countries like China – but not the harvesting. That’s still done by hand. As the workload has diminished, so have the hours of employment for these harvesters, and the pay they receive. But they cannot leave the plantation and their jobs there in search of something better. Leaving their jobs would mean leaving their homes. And without an education or another skill what other kind of work could they get anyway?
So they stay, and make less money every year, and dine on the garbage of American tourists, wear our worn-out clothes, and sell our discarded cans and bottles for pennies.
And that’s how the price of sugar is kept down in America by Americans.
A mile away from the dump, Compassion International, working in a church on the plantation, educates and cares for the children of many sugar harvesters. This place is run by Noelia, a former sponsor child now serving as the plantation Compassion project’s director.
Today, she introduced me to Nancy there, an orphaned eighteen year-old girl whose grades are so good she was invited to her country’s capitol and given an award for academic achievement. She’s sponsored by Sarah, a college student in South Carolina. Nancy showed me a folder full of Sarah’s letters, everyone of them I read was packed with encouragement. “Keep dreaming,” one said. “You can change the world.”
And that’s Nancy’s dream. She plans to study Literature in college, then return to the plantation to teach other children how to read and write. She wants to author books and articles herself, be a voice for the poor in her country and fight, with words, the injustice she’s grown up in.
As she dreamed out loud with me this afternoon, I started to believe, like Sarah does, that Nancy just might change the world someday. Better enjoy cheap sugar while you can.
Internet speed comes and goes here. WHen it comes again I’ll add pictures to this post. For now, words are all I have bandwidth for.