Thursday, October 08, 2009

Who Am I To Make A Difference?

“I don’t think I ever want to travel to Africa,” my friend says while blowing into the foam on her cappuccino.

“Why not?” I ask, adding, “It is a big time commitment and airfare isn’t cheap, that’s for sure. “ Jackie and I are sitting in our local Starbucks taking a little friend time out of our busy full-time mother schedule.

“No, that’s not it. I just don’t think I could handle seeing all the suffering. When my husband goes on mission trips he always comes home so sad, disturbed even. It really affects him.”

“When you travel like that there are difficult things to come to terms with but you also get to see the people and the land and appreciate cultures different from your own.” I try to meet her in the middle.

“Still. I just don’t want to see it--the suffering. It’s like that movie, Slumdog Millionaire, I just can’t watch that kind of stuff. I have no desire to see it.”

On my journey into waking up to the global realities of extreme poverty,the pandemics of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and the mistreatment of women and girls worldwide, these kinds of conversations cause me to pause.

Why are we so hesitant to look into the pain and suffering of others? Is it because these situations are hopeless? Do we feel they are too far away and there is nothing we can do? I mean, we’re just ordinary Middle American women. Who are we to make a difference? Are we afraid we will be too disturbed? That seeing and experiencing and entering in to another’s real life of staggering poverty, abuse and disease will throw off our emotional and spiritual comfort?

I have come to believe we are supposed to be disturbed.

And I have come to believe that being disturbed by the global situation of poverty and disease is not the same as having no hope. In fact, so much has changed on the international scene when it comes to the fight against these things. There is much hope!

In 2000, leaders from 189 countries signed on to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), a set of eight ambitious targets designed to significantly reduce global poverty and disease by 2015. Today it is not just churches, mission organizations and thoughtful individuals in the fight against poverty, disease and universal education (especially for girls). Today governments all across the world understand something needs to be done. Here are the Millennium Development Goals:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger with the target of halving by 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than a dollar a day and to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education with the target of ensuring by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women with the target to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and all levels of education by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality with the target of reducing by two thirds the under-five mortality rate by 2015.

5. Improve maternal health with the goal of reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio and achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases with the target of having halted the spread of HIV/AIDS and incidences of malaria and other diseases and begun t reverse the spread by 2015.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability with the target to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and to reverse the loss of environmental resources and to halve the proportion of populations without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Also, by 2020 to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

8. Develop a global partnership for development with the target of addressing the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked and island countries and in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.

With the world getting smaller, thanks to the Internet and 24 hour news on our TV’s, phones and computers, our generation is the first generation in the history of the world to be so educated and informed about global situations. We are also the first generation to have the capacity to be connected to people so far away from us geographically.

Today we can join with world leaders and make our voices count. We can express that we are disturbed and we think things need to change. As a friend of mine says, “As women, we need to get thick skin yet keep our hearts' tender, and be a voice for the voiceless.”

A great place to start: Join ONE. You’ll get news alerts, blogs, action points, and recommended articles to read. Together we can make a difference.