Mr. Navas, a religion teacher at St. John’s, has worked for people living in poverty many times in his life. Though he himself has never experienced life under the poverty line, he has witnessed it in Atlanta, GA, and Florencia, Colombia. Each experience affected him greatly and changed his outlook on life.
Mr. Navas volunteered about eight hours a week for two years at a homeless shelter while working toward a degree in theology from Loyola University Maryland. Along with a few friends, Mr. Navas started an after-school program for many of the children at the shelter, providing them with activities. Statistics show that most of the people living in homeless shelters are women and children, because they are often the most affected and need more help.
Mr. Navas said he noticed the difference between his own life and the lives of the children living in the shelter. He realized how lucky he was as a kid to be able to go home after school and play soccer or video games, while these kids had no home to go to and instead had to go to the shelter after school. Mr. Navas also realized how fortunate he was to have a good meal every day when the children living in poverty waited around for only a snack. He said he thought that he would not be able to do homework in the distracting environment of a homeless shelter. The children had no other choice.
Mr. Navas also worked with internally displaced people in a village in Colombia for a few months to provide support and hygiene products. Internally displaced people are similar to refugees, but continue to live in their own country. The civil war in Colombia left many people internally displaced. He noticed that there were many issues in the city of Florencia, near where he was staying, due to the internally displaced population. These people had very little and lacked running water and beds. The crime rates were high as well in these areas.
Many of the people Mr. Navas worked with in Colombia told stories of how they left their home cities. He met with people of all ages from all over the country. Many of these people traveled a long way by car, horse, foot, boat, or any other way to escape threats they met where they lived before. He recalls how many were threatened by military groups and left as soon as possible while leaving all their belongings behind.
These experiences greatly influenced Mr. Navas’ everyday life. He has decided to “live more simply” and detach from unnecessary luxuries like flat screen TVs. These experiences inspired him try to make special sacrifices, especially during the season of lent, and made him “want to be more proactive” in helping people in poverty. He believes that “poverty pervades every aspect of your life.”