Thursday, 29 November 2018

Putting a crisis into perspective.

This is the extended* column first published in the York Press on November 6th 2018.

I have been in Liverpool, attending the annual conference for Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland. ‘Women inspiring action, transforming lives.’ There were inspirational speakers, who have worked their way through the most challenging of circumstances. Reports were presented by some of the three hundred and fifty clubs, about the educating, empowering and enabling work Soroptimist volunteers have achieved around UK and the world. Projects which are only a drop in the ocean of Poverty, Loneliness, Slavery, Abuse, Genital Mutilation, Human Trafficking, Imprisonment, Hunger, Hygiene, Disease and Education. *Making a difference. Transforming lives.

Returning home I found that the fridge freezer had broken down with resulting problems, my husband’s smartphone had broken, the car repair bill was massive and Christmas is just around the corner.

My husband became a little ’Dad’s Army’, along the lines of, “We’re all doomed.’ (* It was actually more Frankie Howard, "Woe, woe and thrice woe", but I thought younger readers might not remember that, so changed to Dad's Army. An older TV programme, but still regularly shown on TV. ) I stopped him and said, “I’ve just spent three days hearing about the appalling misfortune of millions of people worldwide. Please get this into perspective.” Irritating and inconvenient our problems may be, but life threatening or life limiting they are not.

* We are used to hearing about Third World Poverty, but surely in 2018, the UK should not have to have charities supporting Food Banks and Period Poverty schemes. The recent figures for the latter, enabling hundreds of girls to attend school are heartening.

Two speakers gave these words of  wisdom. The one time hostage, Terry Waite, spoke about appreciating the small, free things in life, when he experienced a moment of colour in his bleak, black and white, five years in captivity. From a momentarily uncovered window, he had managed a glimpse of a bunch of flowers for a few seconds. He also spoke about his mental survival being due to continually exercising and challenging his brain. Terry’s imagination saved him and he maintains that stretching himself mentally every day, keeps his brain from atrophying at seventy-nine.

A former UK police officer, Ellie Bird Lenawarungu, now married and working in Kenya, spoke about empowering villagers to enable themselves. More powerful than aid workers doing the enabling. I have heard similar from relief workers working in disaster zones. Teachers spoke afterwards, agreeing that if pupils had some part of a project in school, they felt some ownership and therefore respected the work more. 

One of the problem with teenagers and their mental health, may be that instead of adults empowering children to enable themselves, too many adults are doing the enabling themselves, leaving the children entering adulthood, lacking life skills. 

*In this busy world, it is generally easier and quicker in the short-term for adults to do tasks, but in the long-term, we disable our children, not making them able adults.

Empower and encourage others to enable themselves.


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