A million years ago… or about 25, I finished my undergraduate degree in psychology and started working in the social services sector. I worked in child protection, youth justice and community development before undergoing some sort of existential crisis in which I decided there must be more to life than what was due to come next for me… buying a house, paying a mortgage and so forth.
So I became involved in international development. My motives were murky – I’d long been devastated by pictures of malnourished children so frequently seen in the 80s and 90s, and the video clips of a fundraising song or two.
Although I had no idea what I was getting into, I spent almost 18mths in Mozambique in Africa as a volunteer before going to Cambodia. And on my return I went to work for the Australian Government, managing overseas aid and development projects. I later spent two years on a diplomatic posting to East Timor and on leaving government I managed health-related projects in the private sector in the Pacific, before leaving that area of work completely.
Often, since my initial return from Mozambique and in the years since I’ve considered moving back into the social services sector. I’ve found it hard to explain why I haven’t been able to. Why I haven’t wanted to.
It’s all relative you see… It’s about perspective.
Land mines were rife in both Mozambique and Cambodia and many men, women and children had missing limbs. Before leaving for Mozambique I was working in local government supporting a group develop a wheelchair map of the town. Most of the group had electronic chairs but there was still a lot of discussion about the appropriate gradient of wheelchair ramps.
In Mozambique IF someone was lucky, they had gloves to use as their hands pulled their bodies along the streets. Missing lower limbs they’d battle the uneven and untamed footpaths to slither their bodies along. One day I saw someone on a skateboard and thought it ingenious, as they were easily able to use their hands and arms to glide their bodies along. Almost effortlessly. Almost.
A while ago I wrote a post about our habit of comparing our lives ONLY with those who have more. Not less. I do it all of the time. Even though I’m conscious I’m getting a skewed picture of what the world is like. Rarely do I take the opportunity to consider how much I have compared to others.
There are most certainly needy people in Australia. We have a safety net of sorts but it’s not always enough and it’s not always a good fit. There are homeless men, women and children; those facing abuse; those being victimised; and those being ignored by the ‘system’. And I sympathise. I really do. But it’s hard not to think about the little boys I used to see, half naked, asleep on the footpath in Mozambique’s capital in the middle of the day.
Which brings me to my point. It’s no longer the distended bellies of starving children in Africa filling our screens. We’ve moved on. Social media means we’re privy to what’s unfolding half a world away in Syria and various parts of the Middle East. The recent images of children in Aleppo are devastating. The videos of tearless and dead-eyed children wandering about covered in dust and debris seem like something out of a half-arsed schlock disaster movie.
And so, as I ponder my own difficulties: the efforts of tidying my spacious house for visitors and only being able to afford Jansz rather than Veuve or Moet for Christmas lunch (!!!), I need to remind myself of EVERYTHING I have. And not just the roof over my head and some semblance of financial security, but rather the fact I live in a place where democracy still stands a chance, where I have – and am free to – exercise my rights, where I can feel safe, and (most importantly)… where there’s hope.
As many of us feast on our holiday treats it’s a good time to remember those with less. We can donate to organisations like World Vision who are supporting the millions affected by the Syrian crisis AND we can reach out and let them know we do care. (Click on pic below for media release.)
Join us in standing up for peace and show the children of Syria they do not stand alone. Light a candle in your window and post a photo using the hashtag #candle4syria
I’m having a little holiday break myself now… but will do my best to appreciate what I have and make my voice heard. When I can. Where I can.
I’m closing comments… this isn’t meant to be a lecture or a rant. Just a reminder. (And not sponsored.)