service projects and a piece of my mind

Water Consumption:

I’m having a hard time grappling with the fact that we do service projects here. My difficulty doesn’t come from the fact that we are doing service projects, it comes from the fact that most of the problems that the kids choose to work on are much less of a problem here than they are in other parts of the world (biggest culprit that I know of is the US). One of my centers are doing a project on saving water. In one of the communities, water is shut off on Thursdays in order to conserve. Kids are constantly concerned about closing the tap, not wasting water, aware of the fact that it is a precious resource. We have no concept of this in the US. Kids I’ve worked with previously, even in under resourced communities, have no idea that they are wasting something very scarce. I’ve been doing a lot of research on water and the more I read the more I feel that there has to be a way to transmit the message to kids (and more importantly adults with influence on kids) that they have so much power to change so much. Specifically for water there are little, little things, like shutting off the tap, that saves so much water. We water our lawns to make them pretty, we buy bottled water (it takes 3 liters of water to make a 1 liter bottle of water), we waste and waste and waste. I don’t want this to turn into a complaining email, so I’ll stop now. It just makes me sad that the people with the most power turn their head every time.

Child Labor:

This months theme for our older students is child labour. When they began to brainstorm about different kinds of child labor they see, I was astonished at the large list they were able to come up with. There was not the distinction between earning a few extra dollars on the side (a part time job that a kid does) and actual child labour, but for the most part they were able to come up with a huge list. We live in a different world in the US where our kids couldn’t imagine, for the most part, all of these different atrocities. The kids here see or experience it every day. Like my mom says, you can’t expect everyone to understand, you can’t compare apples and oranges, there’s no way to get people to understand about a society that they don’t live in. Saying there are starving children in Africa to kids in the US when they don’t finish their plate will not really have an affect on a child in the long run because they have no concept of starvation or lifestyle in Africa.

I say that we have to make things personal. We have to make people understand that things are different in different places. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make people live in another situation for long enough (1 month, 1 year, 1 lifetime) just so that they could understand that everyone is connected and that what we do in one part of the world ripples across to the folks in distant countries?

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