Barbara Du Mond is a member of the UUA delegation that recently visited the “Every Child is Our Child” program partners of the UU-UNO in Ghana, earlier this month. In this blogpost she shares reflections on economic status, opportunity, and the ECOC program’s importance in the lives of many children in Ghana.
They are the hidden ones, the ones you don’t see as you drive down the road or walk in the streets. But they are there, doing the work, helping others to succeed and survive. They are the people with physical limitations. There are no nice sidewalks with curb cuts, no wheelchairs, no stoplights to halt the traffic so you can take the time you need to cross the street, and no carts to hold your goods for transport and to help steady yourself as you walk. There are no special shoes, no tools for reaching high on shelves, no special toilets.
As we sat on benches outside under a tree to give us some reprieve from the afternoon sun, she came towards us. With flip flops on her hands, she crawled on the hot hard baked earth for the 40 feet from her home to where we sat. As she sat herself on the bench, you could see the thick pads of flesh on her knees where her body had adapted to her crawling. She is the mother of two students who are part of the Every Child Is Our Child program. Her husband passed away several years ago and she is not able to find employment, so she and her children are considered “at risk” and are able to participate in the ECOC program. Barely able to provide for her family, she is also hoping to accept an HIV/AIDS orphan into her home. She and her children rely on the health services that they can access because of ECOC. Because of the program, her children can go to school and receive at least one meal a day, which in the particular school is provided by the school district. Not all schools have this benefit. Only those with the poorest students, where the children are needed to earn money to survive, where children would not attend school except for the ability to get free food. In this school, the number of students doubled from around 200 to around 400 in 2 years because of the student food program.
There are so many things that I am able to take for granted because of where I live and my economic status. What force in the universe placed me in my circumstances and not in hers? What resources am I claiming for myself, and what impact does this level of consumption have on others and our environment? What minor luxury must I forgo in order to provide education and medical care for her children for one year? I am both blessed and cursed by over-abundance. Middle-class guilt permeates my being. I am daily challenged to be as generous with my personal and financial resources as this mother.