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.