Friday, June 13, 2008

Something Has to Change

We just got done watching part of a documentary on BBC Newsnight about North Korean refugees. "On The Border" is a documentary on North Korean refugees produced by the Chosun Ilbo as part of its global cross-media program. The segment contained scenes of a North Korean woman sold to China across the Tumen River for [$47], a North Korean drug dealer crossing the river naked, and the suffering of North Korean women suffering hardships after being sold to Chinese men. It also showed the bodies of people who perished in the freezing cold and who were left where they fell until the waters thawed and they were washed away. It showed how China treats these refugees (put them in prison and send them back, in one case first aborting the fetus of one of the women who was pregnant w/a half-Chinese/half-Korean baby).

I couldn't believe my eyes. Lately it seems as if I am seeing the world as it really is for the first time. I can't believe how naive and silly people are, myself included. It feels like the world around me has been a mirage, which is slowly dissipating, and I am seeing for myself just how frightening and tragic the lives of others are.

I read a story recently about a free rice program which is being stopped in Cambodia, due to soaring global food prices.

"At dawn in a ramshackle elementary school in rural Cambodia, the children think of only one thing: their stomachs. They anxiously await the steaming buckets of free rice delivered to their desks. But by the end of the month, they will no longer get free breakfast from the UN World Food Program. About 450,000 Cambodian students will become the latest victims of soaring global food prices.

Five local suppliers have defaulted on contracts to provide rice because they can get a higher price elsewhere, program officials say. Prices of rice have tripled on the global market since December.

Faced with a shortfall of more than 14,000 tons of rice, and with more pressing needs to meet, the World Food Program stopped the free breakfasts in March. The schools' remaining stocks are expected to run out in the coming days."

The article goes on: "The numbers are grim. In Burundi, Kenya and Zambia, hundreds of thousands of people face cuts in food rations after June. In Iraq, 500,000 recipients will likely lose food aid. In Yemen, it's 320,000 households, including children and the sick."

Many children will now drop out of school, as this free meal was a worthwhile reason to attend. However, without it, they will need to help their families try to find a way to survive poverty and hunger.

I cried my eyes out when I read the quotes from the school children.

"I had difficulty sitting in the class because my stomach was growling," Rim Channa, a 13-year-old fifth-grader.

"I feel hopeless," said Boeurn Srey Leak, a 15-year-old in sixth grade.

I realize there are those who feel that it isn't our responsibility to help the rest of the world. I am not one of those people. Something in my life has to change. I can't continue to live this life, wanting for very little, while there are so many needing so much. I don't know what it is yet, I just know it's there, and it needs fixing.