Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Tinsel and trash

Christmas is a time of giving. The cruisers' net every morning is currently requesting donations of toys for the local orphans for Christmas, these gifts must not need batteries or feeding! There is so much to give to, so much help needed here that it can become overwhelming when you think about it.

Many cruisers are doing great things to help in their own ways, medical, educational and so forth. I find the whole issue a profound and moving experience as well as a deeply disturbing personal journey. I would like to give toys to the kids but so often they are just more tinsel and trash and in a place where starvation is just a short step away from the riverbank it is easy to feel very inadequate.

TBH was born in Africa, Nyasaland as was, now called Malawi. He has lived in central and southern Africa , worked in the township of Soweto and visited the genocide ridden lands of Rwanda and Uganda. I turn to him regularly for sanity checks as I address my feelings about living in a poverty stricken country. His knowledge of the world helps me to find a way through my own experiences. I am very fortunate to have him!

Just recently we have been working our way through a clutch of films with an African theme to them, The Last King of Scotland, The Constant Gardener and last night Blood Diamond. The sense of futility of treating the symptoms and not the causes is massive and has tremendous parallels with the situation here in Guatemala.

For example: it's great to help the local children survive but that creates a different problem as families struggle to feed a family of fourteen that a few years ago would have only been six strong. The next step must be to provide better contraception. Jennifer, the ex-cruiser from Gringo Bay, is working hard on this issue.

These feelings are commonplace for anyone who embraces a very different third world culture such as we have here.

The cruising log of Northern Magic is fascinating in this respect not just because of the underlying and very tragic story of a Mum with cancer trying to maximize her remaining time with a family of three small boys but because of the way their cruising experience changed them and their children in a fashion they could never have anticipated.

They ended up raising money to support locals in Kenya. Providing education, economic and agricultural assistance in a small village. One of the sons however felt that he simply couldn't handle the magnitude of human suffering that he had seen. As I was looking at their website, and associated articles, just before I sat down to write this entry I was horrified to find that he was arrested for attempted murder of his father last year. He found it difficult to return to life in Canada and has never recovered from the experiences that he faced on their journey. Is this good or bad? This has to be a real risk of traveling. Do we become hardened and callous or does out heart grow till it eventually breaks in the face of real human tragedy on a vast scale.

I look at the abusing of young women here by aging gringo's, I read the report of human trafficking from Amnesty International, I listen to Debi's tales of suffering in the local surroundings, and I continue to ponder how I can make a difference.

TBH (the better half) believes that the best answers are systemic: treating the causes, building the solutions from the grassroots up. Two superb examples of this are the Micro-financing and the CAMFED initiatives. Micro-finance, pioneered by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus, is spreading across Latin America with the help of outstanding websites like matt.org.

The second example is CAMFED an organisation which works to extend girls' education, because educated mothers want more educated kids and the real hope for everyone in these societies, where it has become everyone for themselves, lies in having more skills and therefore more options to cope with the blows of life.

TBH is close to completing the project that he has devoted the last five years of his life to. Just one more problem, courtesy of Microsoft, to crack! We sincerely hope that this will be our contribution to helping the world to address some of the issues that lead to these gross injustices within cultures. Look out for the launch of Yalaworld early next year.

Now for something completely different, a Christmas fix!

This contemplative Irish poem, A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh, is perfect to meditate by... a different view of Christmas.

No comments: