SMUS Students Get Empowered

by Caitlin Farquharson

Early Friday morning, a group of eight Senior School students, along with Mr. Lilly and Mrs. Davel left for Vancouver to attend World Vision’s Youth Empowered Conference. This year’s topic was the global food crisis.

We arrived at McMath Secondary just in time to hear from JT (one of the World Vision staff) talk about Mama Sofia, a woman he met on one of his visits to the African region of Tanzania. Mama Sofia had six children, and her eldest daughter had left their family at the age of 14 in search of a better life in one of the neighboring cities. Mama Sofia has not heard from her daughter since. Her family had six months worth of food in their hut, which would realistically last them about three to four months. JT told us that she would be forced to beg from neighbors for food when her supply ran out. Mama Sofia spent all she had on food.

In Canada, we spend about 10% of our annual income on food, as opposed to the 72% which is spent by those in developing nations. By 2008 wealthy countries pledged 22 billion dollars to help with the global food crisis. FAO has received about 2 billion of this commitment. As we sat listening to these facts and Mama Sofia’s story it was difficult to remember that she is just one of the 968 million people living in poverty world-wide.

Next, we attended different workshops pertaining to the issue of the global food crisis. I attended a seminar called “The High Price of Cheap Food,” where we were each given two pieces of chocolate to eat; one was a brand-name chocolate, and the other President’s Choice fair trade chocolate. Not knowing what kind of chocolate we were consuming, we were asked to pick our favorite, number 1 or 2? I chose number 2.

Surprisingly, it was the fair trade chocolate. In the 60 billion-dollar chocolate industry, less than 1% is fair trade. Although many companies claim to be fair trade, they do not have the Transfair certification on their products. We then watched parts of a CBC documentary just made in December of 2008, called Mad Cow Sacred Cow, comparing the Canadian beef industry with that of India. From the workshop we learned the importance of local farming, versus mass production, as well as how much food corresponds with culture and people’s connection to food.

After lunch, which unintentionally brought us that much closer to our cause when the conference ran out of food for the delegates, we participated in an activity called ‘badvertising’ where we were to make a t-shirt with a slogan having something to do with the food crisis.

We then heard from Judith, Grace and Baraka, teenagers from Tanzania, who told us of their lives and the difficulties they had to overcome. What impressed me the most about these incredible youth was their lack of self-pity. As Grace said “Africans are beautiful, intelligent people, the only difference between you and them is that they have an empty stomach.”

To end, we learned of the 30-Hour Famine’s new approach this year, about making it personal. For each person that registers, they will be fighting for someone in Africa, one-to-one. By the time we took the ferry-ride home, we were all filled with an inspiration to Tenda Tendo (do something).

Tenda Tendo!

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