We hopped onto our motorbikes, baskets full of basic medical equipment, colored pencils, and paper. As we drove along the bumpy road, we prepared ourselves mentally for what was coming. As we went around the last bend in the road, we saw the heaps of garbage. I felt my heart jump, but I scolded myself for being so anxious. As we drove past the clusters of people, we were greeted with smiles from the men and woman and children ran after us.
Welcome to the Mae Sot garbage dump. Compasio has been building relationships with the families who live here. These people are often exposed by westerners who come in, photograph and video tape their circumstances only to leave, sometimes even without saying a word. Compasio simply comes into the lives of the people to talk to them, spend time listening, and to be a reminder that they have friends, they have advocates.
As we left the dump, we looked back and saw that the kids were still intrigued by the paper airplanes they had been taught to make and we knew that the origami cranes they had folded would be placed in a safe places to be admired by all. But, more than any physical objects we left behind, we knew that they knew we would be back again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Because that is the heart of relief, not just bringing materials to save someone physically, but to bring a relationship into bloom, because as Allan Brown says “We’re not galloping in as their saviors but we’re there to sit with them and to get to know them. They’re our equals; they’re our brothers and sisters. Relief and development are tools that we use as we go out and love people. When the rice is gone or the clothes are worn out, that’s the stuff that lasts, that’s what changes lives.”