Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Child Slavery Today video

Absolutely fantastic video by Rageh Omaar [1 1/2 hours long] - compares 'actual' child slavery with child labour. I know its long - fast forward some of it if you like - but, please check it out!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

They charge me with fanaticism

These words could have come from my own mouth:
"They charge me with fanaticism. If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large"
(William Wilberforce, abolitionist).


The gap between rich and poor is widening, and I don't know that we in the West really care. I do not understand the people around me, they do not seem to care about the poor. They care for themselves and their families and friends, but not the poor. We spend a lot of money buying christmas and birthday presents for our (rich) family members and friends. Do we spend the equivalent or more to help impoverished people, the ones who really need it? Most of us don't, I think. If we don't, lets challenge ourselves to do this - at least for the rest of this year.
World Vision and Tearfund have 'presents' you can buy friends/family who don't need anything. These 'presents' are called 'Gifts for Life' and the gift (eg. goat, pig, school supplies, seeds) goes to a poor family. You get sent a card to give to your friend; saying what was bought on their behalf, with a picture of the gift. Add to Technorati Favorites

Street Girl in India

On my return trip to Kolkata my Dad and I stayed at "The Monica Guest House". Opposite from our bed and breakfast were several men, and one family, living side by side on the street. the family included a mother, her daughter and her toddler son. The daughter looked like she was about the same age as me (10). They all had shaved scalps: in desperation for help, they must have given their hair as an offering to a Hindu god. The mother and daughter had one ragged, torn dress each, and the son had just one pair of blue shorts. The only other thing they seemed to own was one very thin bed-roll. We gave them some bread and some money. A friend of ours bought the son some medicine because he was sick, and bought the mother a sari. She was so happy with it - but she only wore it at night. During the day she wore her rag-dress so that she would still look poor and be given money when she begged. We took a few photos of that family.

Since that trip to Kolkata I often wonder about that family, and especially the daughter. What became of them? The daughter was the same age as me, so when I started high school I wondered if she was still living on the streets, or in a slum. When I went to my first school ball I wondered if she was married already. Now I wonder how many children she has. Is she still living with her husband, or is she struggling to support her family by herself? Did she ever go to a school? Was she sexually abused when she lived on the streets? Did she turn to prostitution? When she married, was she treated well, or did her inlaws despise her and exploit her because she had a small dowry? I feel like someone tossed a coin, and I got heads (wealth, opportunities) and she got tails. Add to Technorati Favorites

My Memories of India

I lived in Kolkata, India, from when I was three to when I was six. My earliest memories are from that time. My parents were working with a local church over there and it was a very difficult time for them. But the memories of Kolkata that are the strongest and most important to me are from a trip back I took with my father when I was 10 (10 years ago). This is what I remember.

When we took taxi rides, we had the windows open because it was so hot. Everytime the taxi slowed or stopped, children's arms would reach through the windows, begging for money. There were many street people everywhere (kids, mothers, elderly). My dad and I gave some of them money, or loaves of bread, but the number of homeless people was so overwhelming it was impossible to help them all, even though they were all in extreme need. I would ask my dad to give money to this or that person who was begging us, and my dad would. My most vivid memory of this trip to Kolkata is of seeing an old man who was crippled and deformed, and could not walk, begging us for money. I remember thinking rationally "we shouldn't give money to him because he will probably die soon, we should save the money and give it to someone else" - and immediately after I thought that, I felt incredibly angry and frustrated that I had even had to make that choice. I thought: "I care. I live in the West. Why is it not enough that I care? For these people to get what they need most people in the West have to care. When will most people in the West really care?" No one should 'miss out' on what they need to live a comfortable, simple life. There is enough food and money in the world but it's distribution is far far from equal.

Peru Earthquake (15th August)

There was an Earthquake in Peru a couple of weeks ago (Wednesday 15th August). Over 500 people died, and thousands had their homes destroyed. The earthquake was most destructive in the Inca region where one of the children I sponsor, Max, lives. His father is in prison, and he lives at home with his mother and three brothers. He is seven years old. When I first heard about the earthquake I could hardly believe that something so destructive had happened right where my sponsored child lived. I live in an earthquake/volcanic country too (New Zealand) and we are mostly very safe here so even though I knew Peru was in a dangerous place it never occured to me that such a huge earthquake could take place there at this time.

A few days ago I received a letter telling me that Max was uninjured. But I want to know if his family are okay, if the people in his village are okay, if their houses are okay or if they've been destroyed. I will send some money through Tearfund to help with rebuilding housing.

This earthquake was one natural disaster that feels close to home for me, all because my sponsored child's community was hugely affected by it, and I was worried for his safety and waiting to hear news about him. Usually when I hear of destructive natural disasters I hardly think about it again, it just seems so remote. Natural disaster's are far more prevalent, and destructive and dangerous to impoverished people and devoloping nations than they are to us in the West. That may be why we can often distance ourselves from empathy, understanding and action to help those affected by them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"love your neighbour as yourself"

I am extremely angry, confused, and frustrated at our gluttony and apathy towards the poor and suffering people in the world. Why? I just don't understand most people (my friends, family, often myself!) in my own culture. How can we let people die and not die ourselves inside with the knowledge of it, and the guilt? We do not love the poor people ('our neighbours') as we love ourselves. Western Christians and churches generally do not do this. If they did, they would not be living in middle-class houses with 2 cars and 2 TVs. Ministers would not use the church givings to build a new Church cafeteria or get the most recent music system. As Christians we are specifically called to love our neigbour as ourselves. So as Christians we have absolutely no excuse if we claim to love our neigbour (all of them) but in our actions do not.
Faith without deeds is dead.

modern day 12-year-old slavery abolitionist!

Visit - to see an anti-slavery campaign, "Loose change to loosen chains," that was started by a kid called Zach Hunter when he was 12 (he's still a teenager)! Zach calls himself an 'abolitionist' and created the campaign/organisation to fight against modern-day slavery, after he learnt that slavery was not just a ugly historical fact, but a present-day reality for many children and adults. Zach is inspiring. He makes me think: Yay!! People, even young people like me, are successfully fighting injustice and raising awareness!! It can be done! I recommend his book "Be The Change."

Are we sentimental, or passionate?

We all know extreme poverty and injustice exists. If we in the West know this, and have the means to end it, then why does extreme poverty continue and the rich-poor gap get larger? Perhaps living comfortably in the Western world makes it hard for many of us to identify with the poor overseas, and we forget them easily. Our concern for the poor must be more sentimental than true empathy or care because we 'feel' concern, but obviously not strongly enough to really put our money, effort and time into helping the poor.
It is hard for us to identify with people in other countries, in situations so foreign to anything we've known. We need to do move from feeling sentimental concern to feeling real, passionate concern for the poor. Why? Because the poor people are our brothers and sisters. Because most poverty is not a result of bad choice its a result of inequality and injustice. Because through luck we are born rich or poor (that poor person could have been you!). And because whenever innocent people and children are dying or suffering, we need to be passionate. We need to put our all into stopping extreme poverty. So, how do we move from sentimental concern to real, passionate concern? Personally, I have to make myself remember and identify with the poor. I try to ask myself before I make certain decisions: What would I do if a child starving in Africa was my brother? Would I use/spend my money as I do? Can I justify how I spend/use/give my money? What if my sister was in slavery growing cocoa or coffee beans? Would I buy non-fair trade coffee and chocolate (eg. Nestle, Cadbury) if I knew my sister may have been forced to grow it and treated badly?

May the things that break God's heart, break our hearts too

"May the things that break your heart (God) break our hearts too" (
That is my prayer for myself and our world. Because if that truly happens, then we will live in every way treating every other person as though they were ourselves. NO more poverty. No more injustice at the hands of humans. The end to poverty and injustice starts with us trying to truly empathise and understand. When everyone has real empathy, the end of poverty and injustice will be fact - because we will no longer be able to tolerate the existence of poverty.

Bono said: "We are the first generation that can look extreme and stupid poverty in the eye, look across the water to Africa and elsewhere and say this and mean it: we have the cash, we have the drugs, we have the science — but do we have the will? Do we have the will to make poverty history? Some say we can´t afford to. I say we can´t afford not to." (visit for the rest of his speech)