Friday, June 09, 2006

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Help Wanted: North America's Poor

I wrote this essay back in September for a scholarship. I had to answer the question, "Is Canada and the US giving enough for the victims of the Tsunami?" in 500-600 words. I didn't win, but I still am proud of this paper.

HELP WANTED: North America’s poor

On December 26th 2004, while many children around the world were playing with their new toys and many adults were preparing for New Year's Eve, an Earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 resulted in a devastating Tsunami that struck South East Asia. Over 170,000 are confirmed dead, the highest casualty rate by a natural disaster in recent history. The countries that suffered severe casualties and extensive damage include India, Indonesia, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Many countries and organizations around the world have pledged and provided support in the form of money, volunteers, and aid.

Hundreds of thousands died and millions were left homeless or displaced from their communities by the devastating Tsunami. North Americans opened their wallets and gave generously during the holiday season to those that were affected by the Tsunami; while here at home, several thousand of North America’s poor did not have adequate housing, shelter from the frigid temperatures, or even a hot meal. Even worse, children’s dreams of Santa Claus were shattered because their parents had to explain to them why there were no presents under the tree (that is to say, if they could afford a tree). Canada as a whole has forgotten the internal struggles of poverty in her own nation, and Canada’s social safety net is no longer a priority.

Canada and the USA have each pledged over 400 Million in aid over the long term to help communities in South East Asia rebuild. It is shameful that the government of Canada spends millions on Foreign Aid when people in their own country are dying due to lack of life’s basic necessities: adequate food, clean water and affordable shelter. It is also disheartening as a citizen of Canada, that several of those who fought for this country’s fundamental freedoms (veterans) are living below the poverty line. This just supports the old saying, ‘old soldiers never die, they only fade away’.

Although around Thanksgiving and Christmas, people are more generous and are thinking about those in need; however, it is a fact that in the spring and summer months most food bank stocks are depleted. It seems that middle class North Americans must get caught up in their busy lives of balancing dual incomes to keep up with Jones’, and driving the kids to Brownies or hockey practice, that many do not have the time or desire to read the newspaper, volunteer or even vote! North Americans tend to open their wallets and hearts when a large disaster occurs--that receives extensive media coverage--in a land far away, but somehow we have the audacity to walk by that homeless man who talks to himself, every single day on our way to work or school.

Canada and the USA are among the wealthiest nations of the world and they should give to those countries that are in a crisis; however, what kind of nation is Canada or the USA, who cannot take care of their own? As we have seen with Hurricane Katrina, often our resources, such as troops to establish order, money, volunteers, and aid are not able to be mobilized or allocated quick enough to help those in need. Many people immigrate to North America because of the numerous “opportunities” and to increase their standard of living but many still experience poverty here. Although North American governments should give some aid to those affected by the Tsunami, we have to master our internal problems, before having an impact externally. Whatever happened to the ‘common good’ and taking care of our neighbour?

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