Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poor in Riches, Rich in Spirit: Reflections on Swaziland

There is one thing that I have learned having gone to visit Swaziland, South Africa, and that is we are rich beyond belief. Ours is a country where we rush to upgrade our IPhone or Berry, finance a brand new car, and spend oodles of coin renovating our old kitchen’s into something we see in Dwell magazine. Some of us take our motorboats out to the lake, have family ski passes every winter and go out for dinner often. We truly enjoy the benefits of being born to a developing world country. If we cannot find a job, we can apply for welfare; if we are a person with a disability, we can apply for PWD benefits. We are entitled to child tax, tax returns and can even access a food bank if time’s get rough. Education is available to everyone up to grade 12, and medical is available to all. In Canada, if we feel our rights have been ignored, we demand recourse. Entitlement is a word that comes to mind.

It is the opposite in Swaziland in every way. Men can have more than one wife, and many women are raising their children alone. There is a 35 percent employment rate and absolutely no social programs available for those who are unemployed. Most of the rural communities we worked in were incredibly poor. The children within them loved to play but did not have any toys. Toys were made out of garbage, but fun was still had. In the one community to which we provided outreach services, the children walked alone to the child care centre for their meal each day as there wasn’t a meal at home. If it rained, there was no meal because the grandmothers cooked over a fire outside. The children came each day in the same dirty clothes with smiles on their faces.

Their eyes sparkle with a gentle and accepting resilience to the poverty and lack of opportunity around them. It was nothing short of inspiring. It caught my breath and brought tears to my eyes. All they really wanted was to play games and to snuggle and share my lunch. The value of a game of "duck, duck, goose" or a single balloon was priceless it seemed. In Canada, our children expect WII, or Xbox, satellite TV, long boards, name brand clothing and more. Now my point is not that we should feel guilty for all that we have because we come from a developing country, but rather be aware of our blessings. We were blessed to be born Canadian. We are blessed that we have a government that believes it is our human right to have heat, water, medical care, education and social programs such as welfare. We require less “stuff” than we think we need or feel entitled to have. I know I do, as I look at the two brand new vehicles parked in front of the house I own. A closet filled with more clothes than I know what to do with and cupboards full of food. I have water that can fill my bathtub and sinks, I can wash my clothes and crank the heat on cold dark nights. These are blessings.

Across the world, in a place called Swaziland, there are families and children whom I know by name and I have seen their homes and the communities they reside in. They do not have power, cupboards full of food or extra clothes, blankets or toys; but they have winning attitudes like I have never before seen. A strength and kindness that shines on the darkest of nights letting us know that “they are here” and they have the will and the fight to survive.

Kira Gosselin

DWC Participant
ASK Wellness
Swaziland 2011

No comments: