To be more precise, I can compare only three countries: Czech Republic, where I come from, United Kingdom, where I stayed for about a year, and South Africa, where I live now. The statistics of economic growth, GDP and percentage of people living belong the poverty line can be found elsewhere and they still won’t tell you exactly how is the life of people that global indicators classified as “poor”.
I started thinking about this topic couple of years ago after reading a friend’s post on Facebook. She’s a humanitarian activist and shared the information that there was still 300,000EUR available in an EU fund to help Czech non-profit organizations affected by floods. “If you please know about someone who still needs help, let me know.” I have no idea how much was there at the beginning, but these 300,000EUR were just extra, as a leftover, so whoever still needed money, could claim it.
When floods hit the Western Cape, South Africa, TV showed people sleeping on the wet ground, mattresses wasted – well, it wasn’t such an alarming fact if we consider that there are many people who don’t actually have any mattresses at all and sleep on the ground for the whole year. And it’s not always sunny in this country, in winter the temperature at night will easily reach 0 degrees.
When I still stayed in Prague, I replied to an ad asking for Christmas presents for the children from a local orphanage. There was a wish list and you could choose to buy a particular present for a particular child. I happily joined the event, but the following year, when I asked if it was on again, I was told they only accepted monetary donations by now. People were sending them “normal” toys and “normal” clothing, while these kids have lots of “normal” stuff, they wish for brands – they want to be “cool” as their schoolmates from more fortunate families.
It left me a bit bitter. I don’t buy brands for myself, my life philosophy was built on a mixture of values taken from Christianity, Eastern philosophies and grunge 🙂 and the same I’m trying to teach my children – it doesn’t matter what you have and what you wear, work on your personality first. And be happy for what you have, because there are kids that have much less. Well, not the kids from a Czech orphanage.
In Prague underground, while waiting for a train, a young guy approached me, asking for some coins, claiming he was seriously hungry. So I gave him my snack. He crossly walked away, without taking the snack, and I felt something was just wrong here.
Similar situations occurred in the UK. The pram I used just for couple of months after my baby was born was refused at a charity shop because “it wasn’t good quality”. Let’s rather say, it wasn’t an expensive brand everybody was hunting.
And then we moved to Paarl, South Africa, and I found a job at an Internet café. At lunch time, I bought myself a cheese bun and a banana, I sat on a bank outside, the sun was shining, beautiful day, I bit into the bun, bit into the banana… and there were immediately two little boys in front of me, asking if they could have my food. They didn’t care at all that I already bit into it, they just took it and ate it.
I quickly realized there was no need to throw leftovers to the bin after dinner. Whatever you left outside your house, no matter how it looked like or tasted, it was gone in the morning. It was still good enough for someone else.
And our next pram, that was already second hand when I got it, that flew with us from UK to SA, that was used daily, driving over thorns (there were probably 20 patches on its wheels), with dirt marks that I wasn’t able to remove anymore, this pram was stolen from our yard, after completing its 3 years service to our little one. It was still worth to steal it.
All I wanted to point out with these memories – it’s poverty and poverty. South Africa made me understand why it’s a good thing to pray before eating to whatever God you believe in. You could have been born at different place, in a different family, hoping that someone leaves some leftovers outside his house tonight.