Read more about my realizations while on a 2 months mission working on SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) as a volunteer in the world’s most developed country: the United States.
After spending more than 2,5 years in West Africa as an Eastern European (WA & EE), I had the rare chance to experience different challenges from the perspective of the developing world. Learn more about these realizations such as the impact of poverty or hunger.
Honestly, I had irrational expectations towards the USA on my arrival. My false impression was that the more developed a country is, the less marginalized people there are and the less social issues are present.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
On the contrary, I witnessed similar marks of social issues like in those less developed regions I had lived my life earlier (WA & EE): tents in public parks, people asking for food and change and thousands of rough sleepers on the doorsteps all across the city.
(1)For the first look, all these seemed strange in an American well-developed city with a giant tech industry, a flourishing economy, highest form of freedom…
“About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009.”
Obviously, it is not a representative experiment, what I am sharing, but my subjective opinion based on my own interpretation and through the lenses of my previous life experiences.
Does it mean that no matter how we produce economic growth, with the current societal settings and priorities, deep poverty and related effects of it (like health issues, homelessness, mental challenges…) won’t disappear completely?
My answer seems yes.
(3)I thought and asked myself and the environment daily: “America can’t solve the most pressing local social issues even if it is the most developed nation on Earth, what can we expect from those countries in deep poverty?”
“More than 12,000 people were counted as homeless in Seattle and King County this year, a 4 percent increase over last year.”
In my country, where economic performance is well below the EU average, or across West Africa, it was easy to find explanation in the monetary and other developing challenges we are facing with, not to deal with our penniless masses. However, in the USA it was difficult for me the accept the third largest number in the country (3) when it comes to the number of homeless people on the streets of Seattle.
Walking there daily, and facing those masses, and participating in city meetings discussing homelessness made it look like it is relatively a higher number compare to what I can see in my capital of 2 millions or across West Africa.
That really surprised me. Because I expected the opposite. And seeing those statistic below confirms my observation:
Whilst being shocked, I also noticed the incredible efforts from organizations, companies, governments, educational institutions and many others parties in the american societies which are investing in and running projects to support those who are stigmatized, in need of health and social care servicing. We have a lack of these in EE & WA…
As a CoF volunteer my duty was to prepare for a fundraiser gala, organize the board meetings, manage partners and donor relations and the online marketing team. Through these tasks I obtained a decent understand of the opportunities of individuals and organisations to participate in making the lives better for those in need.
Beside I was to go weekly to 2 local social servicing sites:
- Mary’s Place – which is a woman’s day shelter – to meet homeless ladies and provide healing through arts sessions to ease depression, isolation and other mental challenges.
- Downtown Emergency Services. Where I learned from the government servicing and background of how the system works to ease the lives of those souls in need.
I deepened my understanding from this first hand experience that, mental well-being is essential to reintegrate to society and can not be gained only by getting into a housing program or have their basic needs covered.
These experiences made it clear to me, that all these collective efforts – from a well organized society and willing citizens – do provide ease for the most vulnerable but is not the solution to completely wipe out homelessness, the health issues of masses and mental challenges of individuals. We need more change in our systems.
The state of care towards these social issues and the attention which healthcare, well-being of Americans are treated is highly impressive compared to what state we have in my country or those developing countries I have visited. The willingness across sectors and private and public participants to cooperate had straightened in me the hope for our future as humankind.
Although there remained lots of questions to solve…
What’s the price of Good Health? SDG3 part 1 article is about the targets behind Good Health and Well-being Global Goal.
Call to action:
1. Read more → www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org
2. Discuss the following topic with your sympathizers: What do you consider as need for change in our social and health care systems operating in your country or all over the world? How can it be improved? What affects individuals, different parties of societies have on these countries’, governments and the world’s ways of managing needs of the marginalized masses? What can YOU DO?
3. Find a project and reach out to the host entity to support them with advice or funds to deliver it, especially west African entities. The reason is the urgent need to deliver SDG-related changes there.
4. Sponsor and motivate someone in your world to take a global volunteer project with AIESEC → aiesec.org/global-volunteer. I suggest one in the Benin Republic → aiesec.org/opportunity/870351
Created by Kriszti@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
Illustrated by Oguz@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
Proofed by Greg@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
Edited by Lee@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
Supported by http://bit.ly/whatareyoustillwaitingfor
The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of AAI.