BY CHRIS KERR | March 19, 2012
The following post was originally posted in Christopher’s Blog entitled “Adventuras en Ecuador” on 03.10.12:
I was on the bus a few days ago coming back from another day at Manos and sitting next to Josue, one of our ayudantes (helpers) at Manos. In the silence of bus ride, he all of sudden turns to me and says:
“Did you know that 80% of the people in my country are poor? And most of them are so poor, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to help them.”
As he turned back forward, my jaw was naturally at my feet. I did in fact know this fact; it is well known that since the 1970’s, Ecuador’s drastic economic situation has spared few. But I was so shocked and humbled by this teenager’s insight. How terrible it must be to know this fact – that 4 out of 5 people in your own nation can barely afford to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head (and many of them cannot.) It’s such a small fact, but it has big implications. How is Ecuador, a nation that spends 50% of its budget servicing debt, supposed to help its own citizens? The gravity of the situation is even more weighing; where does one start to address such evasive poverty?
I asked Josue why he felt he needed to share this with me. He always replies, “You should know.” Yes, Josue is right. We should know. Apathy is such a convenient way to avoid finding out more about the world around you. It is the comfort of ignorance in which we bask. But how comfortable is it to know that our extravagance is juxtaposed by, for instance, children who don’t even have shoes to wear? By mothers who can’t afford prenatal care? By families living in garbage dumps? Is it so comforting to forget that every day, thousands die from preventable causes, prevention that we have the capability of providing?
I often wonder why I am such a nerd. Everyone knows I love to study and be in school. There is an experiential part to learning about poverty, but there is also the need to be informed. Josue is right – we should know about what is going on in our world. We should know that millions are unable to have access to clean drinking water. We should know that 80% of Ecuadorian women undergo some sort of gender violence. We should know that 75% of the Ecuadorian population cannot afford basic healthcare. We should know.
At the end of the day, how will you answer the question: Did you know?
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.