Thursday, May 1, 2008

Where do we even begin?

Every student who attends Drury University gets what is known as a GP21 minor. GP21 stands for Global Perspectives in the 21st Century, and it's designed to create better global citizens who are more informed on world issues and how to handle them. I'm fairly convinced that they're on the right track. It's a great program.

Anyway, what this program consists of are a bunch of generic classes with titles like Global Awareness, Global Futures, Values Analysis, etc. Currently, I'm in Global Awareness, which is geared towards helping Americans learn how to step out of our egocentricity and be able to think about people in other cultures and how they experience the world. It's a great class, and I have a professor who's really passionate about it, which makes it even better.

Tuesday I had to give a presentation in that class over the malaria crisis in Africa. I was assigned to read an article which ran in the New Yorker once about the massive problem and how Bill Gates has basically decided to single-handedly step in and attempt to fix it. Bill Gates, by the way, has personally invested over six BILLION dollars in Africa since 2000 buying Hep. B vaccinations, putting money into research for diseases like malaria, and other world health related activities. The money that one man has put into Africa is more than any other single country has and more than practically every other charity organization combined. Very cool.

My problem is that sometimes I care a bit too much about it, I get a little too heated, I get defensive, I [insert other negative reaction here] when I start to talk about issues like this. It personally bothers me to think about the fact that an African child dies of malaria every thirty seconds and most Americans don't even think about it. I also tend to start feeling hopeless about the situation. Malaria is only part of the problem. There are lots of other diseases, food shortages (which are getting worse with every passing minute due to ethanol raising food prices worldwide), civil wars, not to mention the fact that every almost African nation is in debt to the World Bank and can't get back on their own two feet enough to help their people. It's tough.

On Tuesday I fell into my semi-fatalistic rut during my presentation. Instead of talking about possible solutions, I just stood up there and discussed the problems. Then I found myself getting frustrated and upset because it felt like the whole class didn't care that during the time I presented forty African children died needlessly of malaria. Instead of using my time to try and motivate people to finding a solution and helping others across the globe, I just made myself look foolish. It felt like a wasted opportunity.

I know that I want to fix these issues somehow. I want to join the Peace Corp out of college. I want to become a more globally aware consumer. I want to get involved with projects like or Nothing But Nets, but it's very daunting. The problems are huge, and they affect real people in real ways. My question is this: Where do we even begin?

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