no longer “the poor people somewhere over there”.

I’m taking a short hiatus from the stack of geog notes… to reflect about just that. :)

For all the shortfalls of Singapore’s education, I must thank it for giving an all-rounded education. From knowledge of how our body works, to how the world works, how it used to work, to dealing with relationships, to dancing and sewing and playing ball, and to the most important of them all, a knowledge of world issues. Geography this year covered one of the most pressing issues of mankind (about time, I’d say)– Poverty. If you take the time to read this,,9171,1034738,00.html, exactly what i was reading just a couple of minutes back (and almost falling asleep too dang T_T), it is so very evident.

20,000 people perish every day, too poor to stay alive. How? The poor die in hospitals that lack over-the-counter drugs ubiquitous in Singapore, in villages that lack antimalarial bed nets, in houses that lack safe drinking water. Half a billion people live on less than $1 a day.

Children my age, our age, study from 6am-6.30pm –they can’t study after sunset because there’s no electricity– and pass the national exams, but can’t go to secondary school because they lack the money.

It is heart-wrenchingly unfair, and the injustice of it all is compounded by the many people I meet, who complain complain about life here – where the worst kind of poverty is only relative. (Not even moderate poverty!!) But what can I say without sounding overly-righteous? (though since when was gently reminding someone how lucky they were ‘overly-righteous’?) Without getting brushed off by those who claim I don’t understand? Maybe I don’t, but can you? Can you understand where I’m coming from? So I breathe and try not to clench my fists and smile and pray for them– that someday they’ll be fortunate enough to understand their own fortune. :) We could’ve been born in Africa, but here we are, here I am, typing away on a computer.

I don’t think such consciousness and articulation of one’s own fortune is arrogance, or a sign that one is in danger of scaling the elitist Ivory Tower… Especially if such knowledge is tempered by compassion and a willingness to help others around you. And that is the crux of my post for today– How do you help? :)

So many people hold a select few in high high regard, people who ‘dedicate their whole life and time on earth’ to being on the ground, helping these people. And while I too admire them, after all, it takes a brave, kind and brilliant heart to endlessly do this kind of work… Tell me honestly, unless you are superman, how many houses can you build? How many antimalaria nets can you set up in front of their beds, how many can you treat with tender loving care… how many can you help? In a lifetime, perhaps 10,000. A million? Today I’d like to acknowledge the people who often get dismissed by others as “buying good karma with money”. :) I want to be one of them. I won’t even start on how flawed the is argument that money is worth less, but I’d say this– how else do you gather the necessary supplies? So you can head to Africa for a year and be hailed as a hero, but the kid who donated her savings, can’t?

My Earth Institute colleagues and I estimated that the combined cost of these improvements [boosting agriculture, improving basic health, investing in education and bringing power], even including the cost of treatment of AIDS, would total only $70  per person per year, or around $350,000 for all of Sauri. The benefits would be astounding.

$350,000. One day I’m gonna earn twice that a year, and give freely to my fellow earthlings. I think we can. :) I know so many friends who would gladly help (at least, I think they would!), together we can do something!

On this note this particular incident suddenly played through my mind (yes my memory is used for more than ‘recording’ lessons hahaha). It was a couple of years back, while we were touring South Africa. My tour group and I walked past this little roadside market, where scrawny African guys were peddling their goods. I was 10, and munching on an less-than-ordinary tiger biscuit, when this tall dark guy -not yet 20, I believe- came up to us, and gesturing surprisingly civilly, asked for my half-eaten snack in exchange for a little mahogany-coloured carved ox. I was terrified, and scrambled away. He watched my hasty exit, almost a wry smile on his face. When I was a safe distance away, I turned and smiled timidly, clutching my biscuit, and he waved the little ox in salutation.

If it had occurred now, I think I would have given it to him… with a little hesitation. No one’s a saint, and I think years of subtle propaganda has somehow made me irrationally believe, that if I had reached out that little distance to connect, the tall dark guy would do something.

I don’t know. But after maturing a little more, maybe now I do know something. That no amount of “hand-wringing or high-handed rhetoric”, or “oh you poor thing in the other continent. but i’m sufferrrrriinngggg here with my insecurities, y’know!” attitude is gonna help change anything.

“No pain, no gain” is outdated. Why do you need pain to gain?! Let’s strike it out “pain” <– look there you go! Maybe “no feeling, no gain” is more accurate– What we need, is just a little bit of the right attitude. :)


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