An Incredible Opportunity

March 2, 2016

I don’t really know what to make of it. It’s been playing on my mind a lot lately.

I work for a charity, which partners with small organisations in Malawi, to help communities overcome the things that keep them locked in extreme poverty.

In Malawi at the moment, as in other places, there is a severe hunger situation. Climate change has resulted in highly erratic rainfall patterns, making growing crops difficult. Because most people are dependant on the food that they grow, many don’t have enough to eat. This time of year is always called the hunger season – but this year it’s really serious.

Receiving updates from our partners about the communities we’re working in isn’t like hearing it on the news. It’s real. They are our friends. We eat in their homes and play games with their children.

I can’t get over the fact that as I go about my day as normal, some of these people are starving literally to death – their dignity stripped away as they are forced to fight and steal to survive. And they are only a day’s travel away. Less than 24 hours away! The ease of travel these days seems to make the whole idea of people sharing our world who are still living in extreme poverty even more ludicrous.

I know it’s not simple. I understand that the causes of poverty are complex, and that there is no quick fix. But still, I can’t get over it – the children, who are dying in their mother’s arms because of such avoidable causes. I think about how I would feel if it were me not being able to put food in my son’s mouth. I can’t imagine how awful that would be, to see his little body wasting away.

What should I do? I think to myself. Is there anything I can do to make a difference? It is encouraging to know that these countries are gradually changing, that extreme poverty is declining. The road to freedom is a long one, and it’s only long term efforts will make a difference. But still, what about today? What about the people that are in desperate need right now?

I often wonder if we are more responsible to help people in other countries because of the increasingly globalised world that we are developing and embracing. In times past the suffering of others in distant lands would have never reached our ears. But now, today, isn’t everyone a neighbour? Do we now have a greater responsibility to do something?

Rapid growth over the last 200 years has resulted in the level of development we enjoy today, but has also produced the carbon dioxide causing the difficult climatic conditions for people in places like Malawi. I find the fact that people may be paying a heavy price for the comfort I enjoy difficult to live with.

I swing to and fro, one day thinking that I should be helping more, and the next telling myself it’s better not to get too involved, and to focus on my own community. There have been so many efforts made in the past to help people in other countries that have had good intentions behind them, but have done more harm than good – I don’t want to repeat that

Perhaps I just think too much. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m angry. Not with anyone, just with that fact that there are people sharing our planet in such a condition. I don’t have many answers. I don’t think there is any comfort. I don’t want to be comforted. I want to feel the weight of it.

I do know one thing though – how not to respond. Feeling guilty for enjoying comfort and wealth while others suffer only paralyses us. It is foolish to feel bad about having good things – having security is not bad, it’s the fact that people don’t have it, which is the problem.

Anything done out of guilt will have limited impact. Instead, we can make powerful actions and decisions from a place of security.

Our generation has an incredible opportunity. Those who went before us – our parents and grandparents and their parents worked hard and fought wars to leave behind a legacy of peace and prosperity, which we enjoy today. We have the option to use this privileged and powerful position for good. Our lives are not under threat, so we are able to reach out and help those whose are.

Old mindsets and approaches to charity don’t work, which often impose ideas or gives resources with conditions attached. But we can stand side by side with those living in difficult conditions, and let them know that we know about their challenges and we care. We can offer our resources gracefully, not expecting anything in return. We can help to release the huge potential currently locked up inside of those oppressed, so that they can find solutions for their own families and communities.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing my thoughts for today, which are not as upbeat as usual! Thanks so much for reading – I value it so much. Have a great day.

You Might Also Like

  • Michele Herring

    Love this Tom.