Friday, February 27, 2009

Feeling Like the "Other"

Like others in the BB group, I have delayed discussion about negative experiences with the program thus far. Acknowledging my own faults (being a worry-wart, for example) comes surprisingly more naturally than involving others in my rants of negativity. Something about sharing negative opinions of others makes me feel more vulnerable, like I am an awful judgemental human perpetuating the cyclic distrust in fellow humans that many seem to cherish. However, part of this blogging endeavour is sharing the reality of my experiences, and as promised in my first post, I will continue to be honest.

My intial experience at Worth a Second Look, a thrift store associated with The Working Centre, was pleasant. I was welcomed with open arms. Everyone wanted to know my name, shake my hand and show me the ropes. I was grateful for their hospitality and warmth as a newcomer, and felt optimistic about volunteering there in future.

On my next visit, as I contently worked on a mini-project assigned to me, a group of staff and volunteers began to gather and talk about life, and the conversation quickly turned to previous experiences with drugs, alcohol, the police and other mischeivous adventures. Standing there amidst this I felt outside of whatever understanding they shared. I was the innocent girl who couldn't relate to their life because I haven't seen it first hand. I felt awkward. I felt like the "other" who didn't fit.

No one approached me saying, "you don't know what it is like to be us," but my silent presence in this discussion, and inability to share any experiences of the like reverberated in my mind. Maybe they didn't even notice me, and maybe they were thinking the exact same thing I was, but either way I felt small amidst this group.

My optimism tells me that while I can never fully understand someone else's life and experiences unless I have walked in their shoes, entering into dialogue with an empathetic mindset can go a long way in creating solidarity. Something about this conversation, however, made me feel so much like the "other" that my dialogue was non-existant. It made me consider what I really expected.

In my placement in Ukraine this summer, I am trying to prepare myself for what it will feel like to be the other. Surrounded by orphan girls with no parents, and often associated diabilities, I know again I will feel outside of the understanding they share with each other. My hope however, is to not lose my optimism that dialogue is still possible. I may have felt small and outside of the group at The Working Centre, and while life will continue to put me in these situations during my placement in Ukraine and elsewhere, I hope I always strive to enter dialogue in the face of diversity such that solidarity or any bridge of understanding may be established.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ukrainian Orphanages Continued

Through my research on orphanages in Ukraine, I continue to come across even more startling statistics. Included are the following:

  • there are approximately 105 000 orphans in 473 orhpanges in Ukraine
  • an estimated 100 000 more children live on the streets, with vacancies in the orphanage being few and far between
  • the chance of being adopted after 5 years old drops to 20%
  • orphan children "graduate" from the orphanage at 16 years old, and are often forced to leave earlier than this (around 14 years)
  • Only 27% of orphans find work once graduated
  • 70% of boys enter a life of crime
  • 60% of girls enter prositution
  • 10% commit suicide before the age of 18, 16% commit suicide by their mid-twenties

I am not really sure what more to say about these numbers, but it is heart-breaking for me to even consider. I am so incredibly lucky just to have parents who love me, and a house to live in.

Some Links on Ukrainian orphanges, explanations to the factors which have given rise to an exorbitant amount of child poverty and orphans, and more can be found in the links below:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ukraine Orphanages

I've been reading up on orphanages and orphan children in the Ukraine, and to give you a glimpse of some what I've been reading I have posted this video. I found the numbers startling, as I was unaware of the expanse of the issue. Watch the video to see what I mean.

This video is geared towards adoption, but for me the air of desperation for attention in any way possible holds true none the less.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sharing the Wealth

I'm one of the most frugal people I know. Sales are my favourite times to shop, I go to restaurants with my friends and order water, and my parents force me to spend my Christmas and birthday money on myself otherwise it would go straight to the bank. Don't get me wrong, I love buying new things, and eating out... but unless there is a reason to do it, I feel guilty. There is a constant looming cloud over my head of the bills I have to pay (i.e. tuition, rent), and I hate seeing that bank account update remind me of my decreasing funds.

Beyond Borders is posing a certain amount of stress on me money-wise. Big factors: spending money to go away, not making money this summer, and the little expenses that add up along the way. The outcome: I am finding myself at an all time high of finance panic. I have money in the bank account, but most of it is on loan from my parents, and that is an unsettling feeling. This makes me feel poor.

Poor: Having little or no wealth and few or no possessions

I read that definition, and know I am hardly poor. I am amongst the wealthiest sect of the world, even though I'm not a millionaire. Sure I have accumulating expenses, but this does not bring me close to the reality of being poor. Having a roof over my head, and my own bed to sleep on (complete with a pillow!) is more than many can attest to. This fact is something I remind myself of when I begin to stress about my economical situation. I am certainly very glad that I am frugal, and not wasting money unnecessarily on a regular basis, but I am also very fortunate and far from financial destitution.

This weekend I had a fundraising party with friends- an excuse to all get together, and if they felt they had some money to spare for a donation there was a box on the table. Knowing that we are all university/college students, or working full-time for the first time, I was not expecting much revenue towards my trip to come from this evening. I was wrong. My friends showered that donation box with an overwhelming amount of generosity that really touched me. I was reminded of the amazing people I have in my life in a big way. But what struck me possibly more than this was their realization of how much these contributions meant for many people who have so much less.

In our last class together Jess DB (a fellow BB), had a slide on traveling wisely. One point on this slide was being reasonable when shopping and bargaining prices. I find that I can be so consumed by my need to save that I forget there are other people who need that money even more. My friends showed me that this realization resonates with them, their generosity marked this. I am hoping that during this trip, while volunteering at the working centre, I am able to shake some reservations on spending money so that I am able to be more generous to those who need it more.