Marnova – of and from a wandering mind…

Marnova's musings on life, media and Mongolia

Poverty kills childhood?

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Save the Children are committed to ending poverty for children.  I admire their ambitions.  Very commendable.

Their latest slogan is ‘poverty kills childhood’.   But…does it really?  I know where they are coming from – innocent children, starving, with no access to medical services, but there is a flipside – if they have enough to eat, a close family and plenty of love, then they are doing better than a lot of kids in the Western world.

Someone very close to me that I respect a lot, grew up in complete poverty in a village in Asia.  He was born in the shack they lived in.  Technically, the family had a roof over their heads, but not with enough space for him to sleep there, so he slept with the other boys in the village hall.  His family couldn’t afford for him to take lunch and a drink to school so he had to choose one or the other.  They had no money for clothes, so he had to wear clothes donated by the local temple, whether they be trousers or dresses.  He had to leave school when he was seven to work in the fields.   For years, his sole existence was to put out the fishing basket on his way to going to mind the family water buffalo (no money for fences so it had to be stopped from eating other people’s crops), then checking the fish on the way back.  Heartbreakingly, his father did not even have enough money to bury his first wife (poor health so often comes with poverty) when she died, so he took her to the mountains (good feng shui) on his bicycle and buried her himself.

So what became of this boy?  Did this life of poverty destroy him?  Well, he put himself through night school and did  his homework by candlelight.  When he came of age, he eventually left his village for Europe (with a passport someone had posted to him) and worked hard until he found stability and eventually had a family.  When you speak to him now, it is rare he tells his story and he never seeks pity on the occasion that he does.  Life wasn’t easy when he was younger, but he had something that a lot of adults, let alone children are now missing – a spirit for survival. 

Struggle and strife were part of his childhood, but they also shaped and defined who he became.  He worked for and achieved the things he wanted, valued the people he loved, lived with humility and didn’t take anything for granted including each meal he had.  You can imagine – that is a person with their priorities very much sorted.

And of his childhood?  Maybe it would have been different if he’d grown up in the city, but he will tell you about the fun he had with the other kids when they returned from the fields, the mischievous whisperings between the boys that shared the loft in the village hall and all the normal things that kids get up to when they’re young. 




Written by marnova

April 7, 2010 at 4:29 pm

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