Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why We Need to Act

Ethiopia is famous for quite a few things. The first positive thing that comes to mind is running; Ethiopia produces some of the fastest long distance runners on the planet. You see them winning marathons, Olympic competitions and all other running events around the world. Ethiopia should also be known for its ancient history, early Christian culture, ancient written language and calendar, architecture, and the Battle of Adwa. Ethiopia was also an original member of the League of Nations and the United Nations, as well as a significant founding member of the Organization of African Unity.

However, there is a different kind of fame that Ethiopia has.  In the 1970's and 1980's, the Ethiopian famines killed millions. While there is no complete agreement as to the exact cause of these famines, Ethiopia is still poor, and still suffers from famine. When I was first making plans to travel to Ethiopia -- after previous experiences in several other African nations -- I was met, all too predictably, with sympathetic gestures of head shaking and lip-tightening each time I revealed my destination. In the United States, Ethiopia is most famous for it's famines.

So, why, I always ask myself, are we not more involved?  A school bus monitor in New York was bullied by kids on a bus. A video was shot, which went viral on You-Tube.  For her troubles, over $600,000 (to date) was donated to make up for the insults she endured.  However, a campaign to raise money for hungry Ethiopian kids, who are fighting against all odds to go to school, is not likely to raise very much. Why is that? The answer is that most of us lose focus.  Most people do not want to hear about the worst kinds of suffering.  It is more palatable to exercise your philanthropic interests on an abused school bus monitor in a rich country, than on a kid without parents, a home, food, or a life conducive to the education that the kid so desperately craves.

If we could see how determined that kid is...  I could tell you about a child whose name is Alem, who left her parents and home in the countryside to travel to the capital for education.  She lived on the streets until she was sheltered in a church, and entered school with the help of sympathetic teachers who paid her school fees.  She ended up scoring the highest grades in her class of over 30 students, after Madiba Children's Outreach began supporting her.  Those nights she spent alone, hungry and hopeless, were not insignificant to her.  She is overcoming those challenges and is showing all of the signs of becoming a successful, self-sustaining adult, and asset to her family and community.

We support Alem with $40 a month.  It is quite a bit less expensive than $600,000.  There are too many kids like her, and it would be so easy to help them all, if everybody cared.  Think about that.  This is why we need to act.  We give more because others give less, or none at all.  Those of us who are aware, who will allow the story of these kids to seep into our consciousness, are the ones who need to act.  Why?  Because nobody else will.


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