One week out from arriving in Africa, I’m sitting here eating my hot porridge breakfast, contemplating which camera equipment pieces I will need and whether I have enough warm clothes packed. Then an article by Matt Wade in the Sydney Morning Herald pops up in my inbox and I’m left feeling rather stupid.
The poorest place on Earth travels to Niger, which on the UN’s Human Development Index ranks at 186 of 187, and it reminds me of where it is I am about to travel to and why. Over the course of six weeks I’ll spend time in South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and possibly one or two other countries volunteering at Home of Hope once again in Malawi and then learning more about aid organisations and the work they do in the other countries. That line of thought about which pieces of camera equipment to pack now seems so trivial. But it is so easy to slip into a first world problem kind of mentality when you are not surrounded by the harsh realities of life each and every day.
My biggest problem in recent weeks has been the stress of finishing assignments. I am in fact fortunate to get to go to university. More so because this is not my first attempt. I’ve had the luxury to fail and go back and try again and again until I figure out what I’m doing with my self. When I was living at Home of Hope last time (2010) I remember the students in the secondary school talking about what they would like to be when they finish school. They had dreams, but most of them all finished off their comments with “but I don’t have the money to go to college.” Harsh reality of life. What happens to the children, adults, families living in complete poverty when the aid runs out? Once the children leave Home of Hope they are back to living below the poverty line and making their way in the world. The children in Niger suffering from extreme malnutrition are treated until their condition improves and they are stabilised, with many returning months later for further treatment in makeshift hospitals.
Now that I’ve rained all over your lovely Sunday morning with tales of despair you’ll all go searching for World Vision or some other charity website to start donating immediately. That’s not the train of thought I’d intended to provoke. Merely, to provoke us all to stop and think. Next time something causes stress, frustration or anger, stop and think is it really worth the effort? In the scheme of things is it really so bad? The answer, well that for each of us to decide.