Poverty in the World, Be the Change

On October 19, I had the privilege of attending an huge event at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. It wasn’t just another concert. It was a special gathering if youth from all over Canada, 8000 of them to be exact, at an event called Me to We Day.

We are blessed to live in a city such as Brampton, which is thriving. We have an average household income of nearly $100,000 and handfuls of new schools going up all around us. We have it good compared to many other places around the world. My message today is not about life in Brampton. It’s about something greater, something global.

Poverty. The gap between the world’s rich and poor has never been wider. Malnutrition, AIDS, conflict and illiteracy are a daily reality for millions. I’m going to throw a bunch of shocking facts at you right now. These are all things that were covered at National Me to We Day on Friday:

  • In North America, we spend 17 billion dollars a year on dog and cat food. That’s more than we spend on foreign aid.
  • World Military Spending Topped 1 Trillion dollars in 2004
  • We spent 18 billion dollars last year on make-up
  • In Europe, they spend 11 billion dollars every year eating ice cream.
  • And we spent 40 billion dollars last year playing golf.

So what do we do now? Why am I telling you all these numbers, while you sit in your classroom wearing your uniforms, waiting for the day to begin? Craig Kielburger, the 24-year old activist who started Free the Children at age 12, sums this up perfectly when he says, “It’s totally possible to end poverty in our lifetime.”

We need to understand that it’s not chance or bad luck that keeps millions of people impoverished and suffering. It’s man-made factors that cause this awful situation. Things like unjust global trade, country debt burdens, and aid that is just not effective. We’ve got someone dying at least every 3 seconds. I’d say that’s an emergency, wouldn’t you?

Ok, so how realistic am I being in saying that we – our generation – can end poverty? Very realistic. If we wanted to provide every single child with a chance to go to school, it would cost about 12 billion dollars every year. Now I personally do not have an extra 12 billion in the bank. But clearly, we can send every kid to school at this price, considering people spent 400 billion dollars last year on cigarettes. You may ask, are you kidding me Daniel? No! But it sure is ridiculous, just plain stupid, selfish, and unjust.

As a Catholic, I believe that we are all God’s people and have to do something to help one another. They are our brothers, members of the same human family, and have the same nature, dignity, destiny, and needs as ourselves. You should all know God said to love your neighbor as yourself – not just let them starve and order a pizza for yourself. And of course, I am not targeting Catholics to save the world alone! Many other faiths believe in helping others as yourself. So please go make a difference and donate, help in whatever way you can. Don’t be selfish all the time.

As the Free the Children charity and Craig Kielburger said to us the crowd on Friday, “Be the change”.