RUSSELL STUBBINGS investigates some of the ways schools in Australian can make a difference to those living with poverty.
INDIA appears to be a country moving forward, a country with a prosperous future. Yet, a closer look behind the facade created for the Games reveals a land where the very poor struggle to survive on a daily basis. Indeed, India is a country marked by poverty, despair, and social injustice.
With a staggering population of 1,147,995,898 infant mortality runs at around 64 for every 1000 live births; 25 per cent of people live below the poverty line and 5,100,100 are affected by HIV.
Knowing these facts raises the question “What can we do to help”? It is easy to feel helpless when confronted by extreme poverty, and this often prevents people from taking action. Yet, many small actions can produce a large impact, and there are many steps teachers, students, and school communities can take to make a difference.
By way of illustration, a young boy was walking along a beach. He noticed that hundreds of starfish had washed up on the shore, and were struggling to return to the ocean. The little boy began throwing the starfish back one by one. An older, wiser man passing by said to the boy ‘You know you can’t make a difference to all those starfish, there are just too many,’ to which the little boy replied, “But I can make a difference, to this one, and this one, and this one....” as he continued.
There are small actions which can be taken that make significant differences to individuals, and even whole families and communities. Child sponsorship is one of these possibilities. For the cost of about 4 coffees a week (around $50 a month) schools can commit to sponsoring individual children.
Compassion and World Vision are reputable organisations who facilitate sponsorship of children in India. What a wonderful opportunity for a school community to impact an individual life, a family, and even a community. Sponsors receive letters from their children, and have an opportunity to write in reply, offering numerous cross curricular opportunities.
Another wonderful possibility is provided by an organisation called TEAR Australia (Transformation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Relief). TEAR produce a gift catalogue where items can be purchased and sent to people in third world countries. The purchaser receives a card outlining what has been bought, and where it has been sent. School supplies for a child can be purchased for as little as $5, another $5 will buy two chickens for a poor family, $25 for an organic vegetable garden, $50 purchases a goat, $100 provides a small business loan, and $550 establishes a basic community school. Imagine your school funding a school in another country as a social service project!
A noticeboard coul be set up at school displaying information, and the cards highlighting items purchased for struggling people and communities in India and other countries.