For the last two years, my mom and I have visited the Dominican Republic for a couple of weeks during the winter. It’s been a great way for the two of us to bond. Not to mention I LOVE the ocean and sunshine!

The best part about travelling for me is meeting and hanging out with locals. On our last visit, I met a local, Melky who showed me around Peurto Plata. What I saw was poverty. Most people there live in rooms smaller than my bedroom and don’t have running water. (A stark contrast from my room at the resort). Many work for the equivalent of $100 US dollars a month. Although they struggle to make ends meet, they are some of the happiest and most generous people I’ve ever met in my life.

While we were driving through the village, Melky told me he had to do a favour for a friend. He pulled over, ran into a building and jogged back to the car with a bottle of beer. We then drove around the corner, stopped in front of a ‘hotdog stand’ type vendor and gave him the beer. The vendor smiled a most wonderful smile, fisted Melky and me and we left. I mentioned what a nice gesture that was. Melky shrugged and told me that when he has been hungry and broke that particular vendor has given him food not caring that Melky had no money. That story can only be defined as philanthropy of the purest kind. In that moment it was as though we were on holy and sacred ground. I started by saying that what I saw in Peurto Plata was poverty, but now I know that what I saw was wealth of more importance than money.

Are we really rich in Canada? Are we happy? Do we look out for each other? Do we need our families and communities? Do the poor have riches that we can only yearn and dream about?