Wednesday, September 09, 2015

There Is Something We Can Do

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, by Sara Jewell.

So many times, our response to a crisis in our community – to a house burning down, to a diagnosis of cancer, to life-changing injuries – is immediate and sure: a fundraiser is planned, donations are collected, people are galvanized to help and support.
We respond by saying, “What can I do?”
            We don’t turn our backs on members of our own community and yet, we turn our backs on members of the human community.
            So many times, our response to a crisis in communities in other parts of the world – to a devastating earthquake or tsunami, to a bombing in a busy market, to a famine – is immediate but not quite as sure: we express our dismay and horror, we pray, we may even donate money but we don’t do much more than respond by saying, “What can I do?”
            And I get that because I, too, don’t know what to do with all the crises and problems, with the chaos and catastrophes in the world, especially the ones that are human-created.
            What can I do from rural Nova Scotia? What more can I do than donate fifty bucks via a website?
            Whenever I wonder what one person can do, whenever I try to write a column about some issue or problem we’re facing (usually the decline of rural Nova Scotia), I always hear the wise words of a boss I worked for at a radio station in Vancouver. He told me, “Don’t come to me with your problem. Come to me with your solution.”
            So I am pleased to be able to provide a solution to the problem that the Globe and Mail newspaper so shockingly and profoundly addressed last Thursday when it published the photo of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying on a beach in Turkey.
            The death of that Syrian boy, and his five-year-old brother and his mother, during his family’s attempt to flee the devastating war in Syria, and the religious atrocities spawned by it, suddenly shone a spotlight on a problem that until Thursday seemed distant and unconnected to us.
            But that photo reminds us that we are not unconnected on this planet. We are all human beings and we need to turn our tearful response to that photo into action.
            What can we do?
            First of all, stop the knee-jerk reaction that refugees and immigrant families who come to Canada will end up on welfare. Just don’t assume that. Rather, let’s assume they want a better life here in Canada, where they can live and work in peace and safety, where they can walk their kids to school without worrying they will be blown to pieces by a car bomb.
            Secondly, to sponsor a family to Canada, the sponsoring person or group is expected to support that family for a year, helping them with all the things you do to get settled in a new area. The person or group also needs to have money and apparently it costs about $30,000 to sponsor and support a family of four for a year.
            It’s hard not to react to that number with, “Are you kidding me? I can’t do that,” but think about it for a bit and realize it’s just $30,000. How many of us spend that much on a car?
If 3,000 people in Cumberland County donate $100, we could sponsor a Syrian family of four to Canada, to our county.
            Just $100. There are kids walking to school right now who are wearing shoes that cost that much.
            I’m an ideas person and putting those ideas into action isn’t my strength but I know how to back up my words. If someone in Cumberland County will take this idea and make it happen – there are churches and community groups who know what to do – you can count on my help, my friendship to the family we sponsor, and my $100.  

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