Saturday, December 15, 2007


By Tiina Mustakangas-Laukka

Make-believe 1:
If we diminished the entire mankind to our school of 300 people and took all nations into account, there would be:
171 Asians, 63 Europeans, 42 Americans, and 24 Africans in our school.
156 of us would be girls, and 144 boys.
90 of us would be Caucasians, and 210 of us would represent the other human races of the world.
90 of us would be Christians, and 210 of us would represent the other religions of the world.
18 of us would own more than half of all the riches of the world, and all 18 would come from the USA.
240 of us would not have proper living conditions. 210 of us could not read or write.
150 (ie half of us) would suffer from malnutrition.
Only three of us would have a computer. And only three of our students would be able to continue their studies at a university and get an academic degree.

So this is what the diminishing of the world into our school of 300 people would mean.

Empathy is an ability to empathize with someone else’s situation.
It’s the beginning of all aid.

Make-believe 2:
If we moved our school to Sudan, Africa,
The dismemberment of the girls’ private parts would be real for 90% of the girls in our school. The dismemberment of your private parts would have been carried out when you were 5-9 years old, and the operation would have had many physical and psychological after-effects on you.
A child marriage would be another tradition which would have serious negative effects on your mental development and welfare, as well as educational opportunities and sexual health.
If we moved our school to Sierra Leone, Africa,
An exceptioanlly cruel civil war would have made us suffer for ten years now. The war would have witnessed significantly more extensive human right violations against children than just the ordinary cruelties of a war. And even if the war was already over, you would still suffer from it, because, as a consequence of the war, many of you would have been forced to quit school.
If we moved our school to Togo, Africa,
Child trade and child abuse would be very familiar problems to many of us and as many as 70% of us would live in extreme poverty.
If we moved our school to Ethiopia, Africa,
About 70% of our health problems would have been caused by infectious diseases which would be easy to prevent with the help of clean water and better hygiene.
If we moved our school to Uganda, Africa,
We would be the poorest people in the world, and our poverty would be even worse because of the serious AIDS epidemic in our country. The biggest amount of infections would be exactly in your age group. The infectioned ones of you would very seldom have a chance to get medical treatment or medicine for your disease. The average living expectancy would be 43 years.
If we moved our school to Kamerun, Africa,
The members of the minority groups that study in our school, such as the Lappish people and the Swedish-speaking people, would not have been registered after their birth, and that is why, officially, they wouldn’t exist. Also, they wouldn’t have the right to own land, and that is why the other Finns could easily drive them away from their houses. Their other living conditions would be bad too, and they wouldn’t have clean drinking water and bathrooms at all. Their children would get sick all the time, because the houses would be shaky and their clothes wouldn’t give them enough protection. Their health care would be poor too and their living expectancy would be under 30 years.

So this is what the life in a developing country concretely is.

When you look at the world from this angle, it’s very obvious for everyone that the need for understanding, tolerance, education and aid is essential.

Empathy is an ability to empathize with someone else’s situation.
It’s the beginning of all aid.

So, if you woke up healthy this morning, you’re luckier than one million people who won’t be able to live till next week.
If you have never seen battles of a war, or experienced loneliness in a prison, torture or hunger – you’re luckier than 500 million people in this world.
If you’re able to go to church without the fear of others’ hatred, imprisonment or death – you’re luckier than 3 billion people in this world.
If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your body, a roof above your head and a bed where to sleep – you’re richer than 75% of the people in the world.
If you have a bank account or money in your wallet – you’re one of the 8% of the wealthy people of the world.

We’re all victims of the conditions – some winners, some losers.
We may congratulate ourselves and enjoy our healthy, safe and wealthy life in Finland, but please do remember that

Empathy is an ability to empathize with someone else’s situation.
It’s the beginning of all aid.

(African statistics from Plan Finland's campaign


woot said...

We all should act, as a humble people we should give money to aid organisations. But the biggest problem is our need to fight and start wars that are purely based on material again. Just for the money that U.S spends to war we could erase hunger from the world for next 30 years. Is this our fault? we have elect people to the gongres.
Start thinking differently! Start from yourself!

Sonja said...

I remember hearing this in school some morning.
Even though I belong to the 8% of the wealthy people in the world, I seldom think about it. And when I do, I get a bad self-conscience. How stupid is that! I should be thankful instead, but not selfish. When realizing my happiness and other peoples horrible conditions shouldn't I want to help. And not just want to help but really help. I feel sorry for not bringing backpacks or such things to school, cause it would have been a good and easy way to help. I guess I'll have to figure something else out.

amo said...

“It is not my problem, I don’t live there.” That is what most people in the rich countries believe. But is it not true that a group is only as strong as the weakest link. Well, in this case the group is the whole humankind and the strong ones should help those who are weak to make all of us stronger.
It is easy to ignore things you do not know or can not see daily, we can not even imagine what it would feel to live in a constant hunger or fear of war. It is strange why a tiny section of people posses almost all the money in the world? But these people are greed, and in the end they will get what they deserve.
We all can do something to help the people who are not as lucky as we are. it does not take a miracle to save someone’s life.


amo said...

When I read this I realised that how well my and almost whole Europe’s things are compare to Africa and other developing areas.

I suggest there would be some kind of welfare tax. It doesn’t have to be very big but when there is whole Europe’s solvent persons paying it there will be lots of money to help suffering people.

Niko Jussila

amo said...

It is very shocking to realize that I belong to the 8% of the people who are considered wealthy in the world. In Finland nobody ever understands that. Here every single one who has a job in Finland just complains about the taxes. What we should do is to get some kind of welfare-tax in every industrialized country that would be used to help developing countries. I am aware of the fact that this will cause much resistance. That resistance could be decreased by lowering some other taxes. This is our moral duty.

by Ari Ahokas