Monday, July 23, 2012

Believe in the Future

Believe in the Future

You might expect these words to come from some historical figure and indeed, they have. Throughout much of documented history, we’ve heard and seen this message echo across all landscapes - important leaders, both women and men, standing before crowds, demanding justice and offering their message of hope. What these words really amount to is a promise. A promise that tomorrow WILL be better than today, though not always without strife.

And who can make that promise?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that a group of 5th and 6th graders from Des Moines, Iowa came up with these words to share with the people suffering in Senegal, Africa. You see, they learned during our recent trip to the Science Center of Iowa that the Sahel region of Africa (including Senegal) is experiencing crisis conditions that leave the people there without water to drink and without crops to harvest and eat. We took the children through a few exercises to help them think about what survival looks like in countries experiencing a crisis. They took a water privilege walk to simulate the disparity gap between access to resources, ran a water carrying race to simulate the distance needed to carry precious resources and make severely difficult choices, and traced the hardships of crop production to simulate the impact of uncontrollable forces on their prosperity (see photos below for all). Afterwards, they were asked to create an artistic message of their own to show their support for the people suffering in the Sahel. These children know that they are the future and they're asking the people of the Sahel to believe in them.

As Oxfam Action Corps volunteers, we want to do our best to show people that the world we live in isn’t the one we always have to accept – that we can (and will!) make it a more just home for all 7 billion of us to live. Just as importantly, these 5th and 6th graders will one day be responsible for making decisions that could potentially impact the lives of those living in poverty (like the 18 million at risk in the Sahel). We adults sometimes (also see: very often) lose sight of the most important things in our lives. How fortunate we can be that our legacy, our children, can teach/remind us that perhaps the greatest promise we share as one enormous, slightly dysfunctional human family, is a future that we can believe in together.

Campers at the Science Center of Iowa show their support for farmers living in Africa's Sahel region. Believe in the Future!
Campers take a Water Privilege Walk and see the "resource gap" that occurs between the developed countries and developing countries when responding to a drought.
Campers carry 16 pounds of water during a Water Relay Race. The "country in crisis" group had to choose between using the water they carried to quench their thirst or save their crops.

During the prosperity exercise, campers get a lesson in hardship.  Crops they grew "weathered" uncontrollable forces, leaving them without the resources they needed to respond.

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