For many years, I took groups of teachers and students down to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and El Salvador. There is no question that the poverty down there is grinding and the injustice is at times overwhelming.
These trips were very meaningful and I was fully committed to sustaining partnerships with the communities we came into contact with, especially in El Salvador.
Many of you may already see where this is going. What about the poverty in your own backyard? What about the terrible poverty in Canadian indigenous communities?
I never really had a good answer to these questions. I guess I thought that I was doing my part.
Now, I don’t see this as good enough. I have been very fortunate to work in a high poverty section of our city – for me this is a first. I am ashamed to say that I really didn’t know the extent of the poverty in these communities in our own very wealthy city.
We routinely buy boots for our kids. We support children through breakfast and lunch programs, we subsidize a whole variety of lunchtime programs so that our kids get the same educational opportunities as others in better off neighbourhoods. We are constantly applying for grants for recreational equipment, technology and improvements to our yard.
I am not writing this to make us look virtuous, this is simply some of the things you need to do when you live in a poor neighbourhood. Even in a rich city.
Sometimes you have to go cap in hand to well off schools to get help, especially at Christmas. I don’t like doing this, but it is important to help families especially at Christmas.
This year, we were turned down by one of the well off schools in our board. This same school routinely raises thousands of dollars for schools in Southern countries.
Of course, this is their choice, but what has happened to our priorities? How have we lost sight of the poverty of our neighbours?
I have no answers, only to say we still have a long way to go in the journey from charity to true social justice, especially in our own backyard.
As for our school community, we will do just fine.
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