Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interview with the Dunnville Chronicle

From the Dunnville Chronicle:

Ninety-one students of Dunnville Secondary School recently decided they could make a difference in the world and, by letting their actions speak, they did just that.

During the annual 30-hour famine they raised $5,560 destined for third world countries through World Vision.

Scott Rollo, who assumed the role of famine organizer as part of his position as Student Council Activities Coordinator, told the Chronicle, "It was good to realize that we had raised funds and to see where the money was going."

Rollo invited a representative from World Vision to attend the event and explain how the DSS effort could fit into a larger plan. It was a presentation by Brad Saunders of World Vision that helped the students see just exactly what they had achieved.

"It was a good presentation. It helped us realize how the money we raised would help," Rollo said.

And Saunders was impressed by the DSS effort. "It’s really quite amazing what the DSS students did. I’ve been at schools with over 5,000 students who didn’t raise the kind of money they did. And with the economy being like it is, it was really impressive," he said.

Saunders began his presentation asking the students if they had read the headlines that morning announcing the 25,000 people who had died the day before from extreme poverty.

Looks of confusion were exactly what Saunders anticipated as that headline never happened – even though the deaths did happen.

He pointed out that other events grab the headlines, such as the recent outbreak of swine flu, which claimed a few hundred lives, while this perpetual problem is largely ignored.

"I think people are aware of the situation but we need to make it a higher priority in terms of action," Saunders told The Chronicle.

"About five million children under the age of five die every year from malnutrition. That’s about 10 every minute," Saunders explained.

Saunders understands it is the staggering statistics that force the gloomy reality out of the news headlines.

"The numbers are overwhelming, but I like to say one person can’t change the world, but one person can change one person’s world," Saunders explained.

Saunders told The Chronicle he was recently inspired when he heard a former child soldier speak. "He was fired up and said, ‘We can’t wait for our governments or the UN to do something, it’s up to individuals’."

"World Vision is there to serve and help people who need it. We will help anyone regardless of race, religion or nationality," Saunders explained.

They provide an efficient avenue for individuals, or groups like the DSS students, to make a direct difference in the lives of others.

Members of World Vision make presentations to a variety of groups and he remarked that high school students tend to stay enthusiastic a little longer than adults. "They stay pumped up and that excites me. If we can influence a person when they’re young, hopefully they will keep the attitude for the rest of their life," he said.

He appreciated the opportunity to speak at DSS because he realizes it’s getting more and more difficult to be heard.

"It’s tough to get the story told. There are so many other voices out there telling us about Brittney Spears or Brad Pitt or whatever trashy entertainment stuff is happening," he explained.

Saunders said World Vision personnel understand that solving world poverty is a very complicated issue. "It’s a catch-22 because we need people to consume in order to generate enough income to be able to share with others. It’s a hard thing but if we in the developed nations live with a little bit less we can give third world countries more," he offered.

He pointed out that countries with emerging economies tend to display a lower birth rate. And the combination of increased income and lower birth rates raise the chance of survival for children.

In order to stay motivated World Vision staff maintain the approach outlined by their motto – "Change a life, change your own."

"I know the work I’m doing is saving lives on he other side of the world. But the flip-side is changing lives here by raising awareness," said Saunders.

The 30-hour famines, run at churches, schools, or through other groups, are one of three major annual World Vision initiatives. Sponsoring a child born into poverty on an ongoing basis is their second program and purchasing gifts from their annual catalogue is the third.

"The famine season is wrapping up. We begin to focus on the sponsorship program through the summer and then concentrate on the catalogue beginning late in September," Saunders revealed.

"I really love the catalogue concept," he said. "It helps us take the focus off ourselves and allows us to purchase something for someone who actually needs help."

He explained catalogue gifts are not one-time handouts. "The goal is longer term sustainability. The gifts may be a goat, chicken, cow, or fruit tree. They can breed the animals and sell them or sell eggs or milk to produce income, for example."

World Vision has a monitoring process in place to ensure the gifts purchased go into areas targeted for development.

Saunders made it clear that personal help from World Vision is a big part of the process. "Our staff work to train people on what to do with the gifts," he said.

Link to original article: Dunnville Secondary Students Share The Vision