Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope

Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope, coordinated by BlogCatalog and Heifer International, asks bloggers around the world to take action to combat the poverty and hunger affecting more than 500 million people worldwide and responsible for the deaths of over 15 million children each year. Their blurb said “You can make a difference!“ and I hope we are, where we are. What follows may be a little vague, perhaps even confused, but it’ll be a rare glimpse into some of the things we have to think deeply about.

I honestly don’t know if some of the young people we work with each week are hungry, I haven’t asked them if they are, but it’s quite likely. I suspect this for two reasons. One, I know that some of the team I work with are involved in regular food distribution to poor families. Second, I know some of the young people spend their days either begging or sorting rubbish on the rubbish dump that doubles as their home. The dump I’m thinking of is behind a big wall, with a no-photography sign on it, right next to two large out-of-town stores. Rowan’s been behind the wall, but I haven’t. But I do drop young people home there from Klub a couple of times a week.

Over the winter that was a very strange feeling. I was heading back to an apartment that was cold and damp despite its electricity and running water. For half of them, wherever they were spending the night had neither. Yet despite this, many of these young people would be among the best turned out at Klub – the boys and the girls. Dropping them home, like I did this evening, doesn’t get any easier, if I’m honest. It’s something you can’t think too much about because it’s so hard to compute.

Klub, the youth centre we’re part of running, opens as a drop-in for young people of different ages on different evenings. Hope is one of our main motivations for being there. That’s why in that context I’m not asking the question about hunger. These young people live in a culture where many look down on them because of their skin colour and ethnic background. I hate being looked down on and I’m pretty sure they’d fancy a break from it too. The need is not to make them feel needy but to feel accepted.

Part of hope for them is that they can do the things that other young people their age can do. What would be normal, even taken for granted, by so many is a step into a different world for them. Tonight I was doing battle on the table football table; for once I was on the winning side! Rowan has a couple of budding young artists she’s encouraging. Behind the bar Ben is passing on his skills in crafting a cappuccino. I see all this and I sense progess.

We’re still relatively new here, finding our feet and trying to understand what help in this situation should really look like. We’re talking about the differences and relative benefits of aid and development with others have been here much longer and have some perspective. I read articles about social enterprise and get excited about the possibilities that could bring. I know things won’t change overnight, but somebody has to start somewhere doing something. Thankfully, we’ve joined a team of people doing just that.

Food, clothes and shelter are the basic human needs for survival, but hope is what energises the life they sustain. I want to follow that statement with a flashy final flourish but it isn’t going to happen. Partly it’s too late but mainly because, as I’m sure you realise, life just isn’t that simple. The simple question we have to keep asking: how am I feeding the hungry and bringing hope to the hopeless?

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