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"Pictures of poverty – do they lead to action?"
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"Pictures of poverty – do they lead to action?"

Denise Juvane“We are not heartless human beings; we are simply [more than often] sedated human beings,” writes Denise Juvane, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Mozambique now living in England. But has the oversaturation of images of poverty in Africa halted us from action?

There is a saying that goes along the lines of: “we never know the next person’s level of suffering until we have walked in their shoes”.

In poverty more than anything, this statement is undoubtedly correct. Whether it’s something we witness down the road from where we live, or something that is heavily bombarded through the media, for the most part we can only empathise with these small, frail and innocent children used as ‘models’ on our TV screens.

Those ‘help a child in Africa’ and ‘just £3 a month can get Mary to school’ exhortations awaken our sensitive side. We try to imagine their pain, but it is such a heavy topic in all media platforms today that as human beings we have become sedated. We are so used to seeing such suffering that though we may feel a duty to do something, most of the time we watch and condone it – then move on with our daily tasks.

For the most part, marketing and publicity have distorted the essential meaning of voluntary work. While voluntary trips are highly commendable and do make an impact and a significant change in the poorest areas of the world, the publicity for them in recent years has paid more importance to the skills a volunteer will achieve as well as the opportunity to be submerged in a particular culture, rather than actually highlighting the cause that takes them there in the first place.

The point I try to underline is that though volunteer trips are rewarding for both parts, some publicity for them obfuscates the poverty reality of our world. 

What happens now? We must, as human beings, realise that a problem is a problem.

Regardless of how big or small, we all have our own problems, and to a great degree we find that we can only empathise with those in other situations, but not sympathise. We ought to remove ourselves from that ‘sedated’ state of mind so that when we do go on to do something, we are able to define the correct motives of the tasks we are performing. Whether it is in our day-to-day lives, or in different circumstances, we should try to be not too far removed from the realities of our world, but above all, look beyond our own necessities and desires. When doing something, let us ask ourselves “why am I doing this? And for whose benefit?” 

It’s our world; a little effort goes a long way. 

photo credit: Yan Boechat via photopin cc

photo credit: SarahDeer via photopin cc

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About me:

I am an International Politics student at the University of Surrey in England, currently carrying out an Erasmus exchange programme in Madrid. I am very much interested in international development, the effect of media in international relations and tackling of poverty and inequality. As well as writing for the Commonwealth Correspondent, I am also a News Writer for the University of Surrey’s newspaper ‘The Stag’.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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