The silence on my blog over the past month has been due to a two-week vacation taking me on a safari, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar. While this trip has helped me unwind and come back to USK refreshed and ready for the extension of my fellowship, it also reminded me that what I am working for here in Nairobi is not city, country or region specific – but rather a worldwide issue.
In Tanzania, I saw mothers begging on the streets of Arusha with their babies lying silently in their arms. I saw boys sleeping on the sidewalks with nothing sheltering them from the elements except their threadbare clothing. Seeing them not only reminded me of what I have seen in Nairobi, but also what my eyes have witnessed in Peru and what is going on unseen by me in countries all over the world.
Kenya is ranked number 148 on the Human Development Index, out of 177 countries. This puts my host country ahead of 29 others, such as Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the majority of other African nations. Not far from Kenya on the rankings are India, Haiti and Yemen, showing poverty of the scale I have seen is a worldwide phenomenon, not an Africa-specific problem. Even in fairly high-ranking countries such as Brazil (number 70), there are estimates that place the number of children living or working on the streets as high as eight million. Even in the US (number 12), there were one million children on the streets in 1996. This does not even touch on the much larger numbers of people living in extreme poverty, which is estimated to be approximately one billion people worldwide.
Thinking on such a worldwide scale has been discouraging and uplifting all at the same time. It has caused me to ponder the enormity of what I am working to end, but also made me appreciate the magnitude of what I am teaching my students to do. While they are writing about and photographing issues affecting their lives here in Kenya, they are in fact advocating on behalf of the poor and marginalized everywhere.
Empowering these 17 students to speak up about their situation is like handing a megaphone to the poor, a group that is usually spoken on behalf of, but not heard from directly. It is easy to ignore me when I relay a story about a young child I have met or a young mother who is having a hard time, but when they tell you their stories for themselves, it takes much more to dismiss. I view this as a first step in creating the worldwide unity that is required to end their suffering – something that makes me optimistic that humanity will be able to defeat the extreme poverty that affects our brothers and sisters in every country of this world.
Posted By Kristina Rosinsky
Posted Sep 20th, 2008