This photo was taken on our second day in Tonga. Mr. Matheny had permitted us to visit the kids in the village to play with them after we finished our clock activity during that afternoon. I was beyond thrilled to see the children because my principal goal was to bond with them as much as I could during the trip.
The moment we crossed paths, their wide smiles and laughters enlightened me. I noticed how happy they were to see their friends and us. From there on, I learned how much nothing can provide happiness to individuals. Many say that “money brings happiness”, but ever since I saw the kids of Atata, I realized that money, in fact, does not bring happiness. Their source of joy solely comes from seeing and playing with each other. I thought I knew the feeling of true happiness, but in reality, I did not experience it until I met those kids. Living here in Canada did not provide me the satisfaction I thought I always had. The Atata kids are extremely grateful with the life they have regardless of the fact that they don’t have anything and everything.
My first visit to the village was such an eye opener – I went there expecting to form unforgettable bonds and memories with the kids yet they were the ones who taught me life lessons that will stick with me for as long as I live. As cliché as this sounds, I often take the several opportunities I receive for granted. I believe that the easy access I have towards anything my needs and wants desire enables me to keep asking for more. At most times, I don’t necessarily require the luxurious materials I constantly crave. Disregarding the amount of fortune we receive in our everyday lives, they never seem to be enough in fulfilling our satisfaction. These kids do not take anything for granted and they are constantly grateful for every blessing that is given to them. I had a large amount of guilt built up on me due to the inconsiderate actions I have exhibited throughout my life. Not acquiring everything money can offer allows individuals to cherish life more often. I’ve spent most of my time worrying about futile things. Rather than embracing what I already had, I was ignorant and yearned for the what I did not have.
It is riveting to see the differences in values between a developed country and an undeveloped one. Comparing Canada and Tonga, our values consist of any materialistic things that money could afford. As for Tonga, being with each other is what is of importance to them. All my life, I have been exposed to such environment where electronics, such as phones and computers are everywhere. Due to the effect and influence of others, I missed the opportunity to explore the other side of the world. Visiting Tonga and the children specifically, allowed me to unplug and connect. The difference between the Atata kids and the ones here in Canada is immense. As each generation progresses, the more they get attached to their phones. There has been a drastic change in developed countries; Whenever children begin to cry or get infuriated, their parents’ first instinct is to give them an iPhone or an iPad in order to refrain them doing so.
Those kids have limited sources regarding their necessities, yet not once do they complain about it. Despite their situation, each one of them are nevertheless generous. It is unlikely for the majority to expect such selfishness from this group of individuals. Who knew that the ones who don’t have everything they want and need will have hearts made of gold. If there was one vital lesson that day taught me, it would be that I don’t need everything nor anything to be happy, rather, all I genuinely require are the presence of the individuals who extremely matter to me.
This miniscule island of Atata provides the children a limited knowledge regarding games and sports. Their isolation generates their oblivious brains. Many of these kids have so much potential, however, due to their restrictions, they can only contribute so much to their community and to the world. Seeing them learn how to play ultimate and Stella Stella warmed my heart. These games instantly entertained them and that felt peculiar for me because most of the kids here would much rather go on their phones and hide away from the world. Even running around and playing tag reached their peak of satisfaction.
Throughout the duration of our playing time with the children, I interacted with most of them, however, some were not capable of speaking English. The language barrier that was built up did not prevent us from having fun and living our life to the fullest. It did not matter whether or not we had trouble understanding each other. As long as smiles and giggles were reciprocated, we immediately knew that we were all enjoying our time with each other. Such situation did not concern me in the first place because I was way too excited to meet the children and create a strong connection with them. Although communication may have been a problem, playing with each other enabled me to realize that language barrier is incapable of breaking the fun apart I had with the kids.
If I was not given the opportunity to visit Tonga and meet those kids, the perspective I have towards the world and others would have never changed. I learned new things about myself and others within that one hour visit to the village. Our first interaction with the kids created a special, and an unforgettable memory. Their innocent minds will always be unaware of the fact that they had the capability of impacting my life for the better. To them, we were just a group of teenagers who visited their island solely to build a storm shelter, but to us, it was so much more than that.
– Samantha C