The Idea for HealCoin, Part I
What Do You Do When You Witness Injustice?
In 2017, I spent my summer interning for a non-profit in Cajamarca, Peru. I had various responsibilities, from helping with an after-school program to teaching English at a university in town. However, my most impactful experiences came from the Saturdays I spent with a local group called Camina Conmigo (founded by Gladis Abantes Morales) as we visited disabled children in the poorest of conditions throughout Cajamarca.
The whole experience was extremely impactful, but there was one moment in particular that affected me more than all the rest combined, and would come to inspire the founding of HealID. This moment occurred on my first outing with the organization, when we visited a family of at least five, in their dark, cramped, and unfurnished two room house.
“Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
However, it was not their living conditions that affected me so deeply, as theirs were relatively normal, and even a bit better than others in the area. No, it was a little boy of about eight and a particular expression in his eyes that shook me to my core and made me reconsider everything I thought was important. This little boy seems completely healthy. He lives with his caring mother, grandmother, and siblings. The only kink is that his two older sisters’ bodies have slowly been taken over by a disease that makes them spasm uncontrollably. There is nothing these young women can do as they lapse deeper into this illness, even though they are otherwise mentally fine.
As we visited with these young women, this little boy scampered into the tiny dark house to see the strangers, super cute and energetic. Yet as he stood in the doorway while we talked about the disease with his sisters, I could see this knowing, terrified look darken his bright eyes. When I glanced at him, his curious, carefree expression had suddenly been replaced by a deep despair that I suspect never fully leaves him. He was clearly thinking about how at any moment he could be the one helplessly confined to his bodies’ spasms, stuck in his chair.
He is next, and everyone in the room knows it.
There is blind hope, but the only thing anyone knows about the disease is that it seems to be genetic, so that hope is slim and uncomforting. And it is so incredibly sad because he knows and is terrified, and his family is terrified for him and his siblings, but there seems absolutely nothing anyone can do but wait and see if, or more likely when, the disease takes hold of them as well.
There is not much the parents can do, or know how to, and the only miracle of the situation is that the mother and aunt are even there to support their children however they can in the first place. As I sadly found out in many other visits, that is often not the case in such situations. More often, the child is abandoned or used for their illness.
So, what do you do when you witness an injustice such as this?
Often, it seems like there is not much you can do.
It is tough to place yourself in the shoes of those less fortunate, those suffering, and think about or imagine living like they do. It sucks to feel helpless and depressed. And when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t help anyone to simply feel bad and sympathize. However, empathizing with and witnessing the injustices that occur is important to instill you with a sense of purpose and a drive to act.
Ultimately, what I got out of my experience with Camino Conmigo is that I want to and need to do something meaningful.
Being a bystander to an injustice, even and especially when it seems like there is nothing you can immediately do, should still spur you into action and the gears in your mind into overdrive. It should inspire you towards a greater purpose, towards discovering what it is you can do. Don’t forget. Don’t let it float into the back of your mind or let the moment pass. Experience, reflect, and take action any way you can or see fit. Tell others about what you have witnessed. Let the world and especially those motivated, capable people closest to you, know.
And then act.
Ultimately, that is what I did by telling my best friend, my boyfriend, my parents – one of whom took this heart wrenching experience and dared to tackle the problem and come up with a solution: HealID.