By Lindsey Burke, Grade 12, Holy Angels High, Sydney, NS

Poverty the state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts. As I sit here in my room after a day of free education I'm writing an story on poverty. After looking at pictures and researching gruesome details of how most of the world lives, I can not help but feel guilty. We wake up each day taking for granted basic things such as, plumbing, clean drinking water from the turn of a tap, and knowing we have food waiting for us every morning, noon, and evening. Children attend school, adults work for minimum wage or higher, and we have laws protecting us from infringements on our rights. However, one third of the world's population is not fortunate enough to have these luxuries.

When did we become so engrossed with ourselves and the status of our families, that we lost empathy for mankind? We are never happy with what we have, because we are constantly competing with others. We thrive on commercial goods, believing that is what life is about, one big competition to see who can afford more. Then there is the population who is just happy to make it through one more day. They live in ghettos, huts, fields, city streets, slums, shantytowns, cardboard boxes or whatever can cover their head for the night.

People turn a blind eye to this problem believing they are just one person, who can't help people living on the opposite side of the world. It is too late to claim ignorance. We have known all along the horror these people go through everyday. We watch it on television without feeling or remorse because we could not comprehend that people actually live like this. It is in magazines, with true stories of poverty stricken lives. How it really feels not knowing when you will eat, sleep, or bathe again. If you will make it through the night without being robbed, raped, or murdered. People who have traveled outside of tourist's boundaries and actually visited villages have written true accounts of life in these countries. Now we have the Internet, which is flooded with unlimited information about these people who cannot support themselves, and do not have a voice.

Everyone knows these conditions exist in other countries, and they do not want to be involved with someone else's problems. I am not so naive that I think these problems do not exist in Canada. Poverty is in every city in the best country in the world. People live on streets begging for money, turning to crime for support and it is right here in our own communities. A single mother living on welfare, worried about how she will pay the rent for her small, run-down apartment, what she will dress her children with, how she will feed herself and her babies, how she can afford heat in the winter. If she looks for work, and finds a job she will have to report it to social assistance. In which case, they stop sending financial help, as soon as they are informed.

But I wonder, how is she supposed to get on her feet, and support her family with a minimum wage job, which is the only thing she will find in a place like Cape Breton. The period before her first pay check and her last social assistance check, the government must assume that she can use money in her bank account that she was saving while she was receiving six hundred dollars a month, because after she pays for rent, heating, lights, water bills, groceries, and the basic necessities to survive, she should have plenty of money left over to be saving for an emergency. As you can see this assumption is ridiculous. However, it is a fact of life and it happens everyday to families wanting more, but not knowing how to help themselves.

"Money makes the world go round." It must have been a politician who quoted that famous statement. Isn't that what it's all about, politics and money. These developing countries owe debts to other developed nations who refuse to forget about this money that they will never see because the people in these countries are poor for a reason. There is no work, no land to farm, and no future. How are they to pay unrealistic amounts of taxes to pay back another country. As much as we may think poverty does not exist, it does and it will not go away anytime soon. I'm not suggesting we all sell our houses and cars, and send all profits to people living in poverty. That would not solve anything. I'm suggesting to make a stand in our own cities, provinces, and country that we will not accept that members of our human race are being treated so unfairly. It is time we make governments listen to us. If that means strikes, protests, or controversy, so be it, because it is time for the world to wake up and realize what we are letting happen to others.

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