Everything is Interconnected

This was originally published on Verity’s Our Voices on May 9, 2012.
Recently I had an opportunity to participate in a poverty simulation as part of Credit Union Development Education training in Madison, WI. Though there have been times in my life that I’ve worried about money, postponing some bill payments in order to have enough money for rent or groceries, this simulation opened my eyes to the very real stress currently faced by 15% of the U.S. population.

My classmates and I were all given scenarios, and had different goals (mine: find a place to live by the end of the 2nd 15-minute “week“ for my partner and our child, so that we would no longer be homeless). We struggled with having enough transportation passes, with finding work, with being able to afford food or child care. The simulation was meant to represent one month’s time. Never have I been so stressed and worried about money, and it was only a simulation, and only for an hour. The experience enabled me to recognize that when someone is struggling with finances – seriously struggling, as in “If I don’t eat, will there be enough money to have both shelter and food for my child?” sort of struggling – it becomes nearly impossible to think beyond the immediate goals. The money stresses I’d faced in the past paled in comparison.

The program I was in – to become certified as a Credit Union Development Educator – seeks to examine the issues facing communities locally and globally. With 39 other credit union representatives hailing from all over the US, and from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya, we worked together in small teams to explore the different development issues that hold back our communities.

As we worked together discussing the issues in different activities and for presentations, it became readily apparent that so many of the issues are interconnected. For instance, in the US, if you don’t have transportation, it can be challenging to find (and keep) employment. If you aren’t employed or are underemployed, it’s near impossible to afford housing and food. Health care is prohibitively expensive. Education has been heading out of reach of many Americans for a long time, too, which can directly impact one’s ability to earn a living wage and save for the future. If one is unable to save for the future, it can be impossible to change one’s circumstances.

As we look at the issues globally, it gets increasingly heart-breaking. Fifteen to twenty million people die every year from hunger – end hunger, and we may begin the slow process of ending poverty. Cooperative efforts around the world are making a difference with opportunities such as savings mobilization and micro-financing programs, working within communities to empower them in ways that change their lives.

The challenges faced by our population are very real, and can be so easy to forget when we focus on our lives, which in the grand scheme of things for about 90% of the Seattle population, holds very few threats to our basic needs. “If you keep your food in a refrigerator, and your clothes in a closet, if you have a roof over your head, and have a bed to sleep in… you are richer than 75% of the entire world population.” Puts a lot of things into perspective.

Now that I’m back in Seattle, back where I can count the blessings I may have taken for granted previously, I find myself driven with a new purpose – to do what I can to help uplift and enrich the communities I belong to, as well as the global community that we all share. After all, much like the development issues, we as a people are all interconnected. It’s our responsibility as global citizens to make this world a better place, which we can do through cooperation.

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