Have Your Say – Sean Smith Moreton Bay Boys’ College
In today’s modern world, most Western children have it all – from the very best education to the newest forms of technology and gadgetry. However, this comes at a price.
Many of our children take for granted all that they have at their fingertips and are unaware of the hardships faced by their counterparts in poverty-stricken third world countries – and within poorer communities throughout Australia.
This is why in June I accompanied a group of students from Moreton Bay Boys’ College on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa. Here, they visited a local school and witnessed first-hand how tough life can be for those who don’t have the same opportunities as them.
Nothing could have prepared the boys or me for the reality that we were confronted with when we arrived in the small village of St Jude’s. The depth of the poverty that some people experience every day was a huge reality-check for us all.
When we presented the villagers with gifts of food and solar lighting they were overcome with gratitude. One father physically shook with emotion as we handed him maize for his family. It hit home just how much we take for granted, and how much difference just the smallest things can make to the lives of the people we visited.
However, the most humbling thing of all was the positivity by which the villagers lived their lives. Despite the hardship they face on a daily basis, they welcomed us into their homes with overwhelming warmth and pride.
When we first arrived, the boys were clearly intimidated by their surroundings. At the airport we were confronted with armed guards and dogs. It wasn’t quite what these kids had envisioned when they set off to travel abroad.
However, they soon acclimatised, and I was so proud of the way in which they embraced the entire experience.
The trip had a significant and positive impact on all of the boys. Many of them told me afterwards that they now appreciate everything they have so much more. In particular, they saw how important education is to the village schoolchildren.
In fact, it is invaluable to them. The village children expressed this throughout our visit and the message came through loud and clear. Their dedication towards grasping every educational opportunity available to them was inspiring, and served to reinforce to our boys just how lucky they are to have such fantastic learning opportunities available to them.
The students have also come to appreciate the value of money much more. Many of the villagers earn in a year what some children receive in weekly pocket money – a hard fact that came as a shock to most of them.
And, having witnessed the security around even the smallest amount of cash in Kenya, the boys realised that it must never be taken for granted. In this world, every penny really does count.
Many of the students were hugely affected by what they had seen and experienced in Africa. On their return to Australia, some of the boys set up a fund to raise money for the African school’s ‘Parent’s Fund’. This charity works to help the very poorest families in the area provide an education for their children.
I can’t put into words how important I think it is for children to be exposed to cultures and lives beyond their own. It is very easy to become sheltered and desensitised to the daily struggles that many of those less fortunate than us deal with day in and day out.
What we see on television is just a fraction of what the boys saw on the trip. Enlightening and enriching, I would encourage all Australian parents to allow their children to experience something similar – inside or outside of Australia.