Writing Obama Blog Post # 8

“I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.”

—President Barack Obama, January 10, 2017

We need some hope.

Today, I found the link to President Obama’s new Twitter account and his foundation page. It starts with a really positive message.

When you go through the site, you are asked a few questions on what kind of positive initiative you would like to see happen. You are also asked to add an image and write about why it is important to you. I wrote this.

I think a good citizen is someone who contributes in a positive way to make things better for those in their community.  That community could be your neighbourhood, city, country or the entire world. We can all make a positive difference if we want to.

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I am part of a group that will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in March 2017.  I love this project because we get the adventure of a lifetime and at the same time, we raise money for a charity of our choice – mine is Rec LINK, a small organization that helps families in poor neighbourhoods access recreational services.

It would be great to do something like this in Guatemala or El Salvador – places more people need to explore and learn about.

That’s it – I got to write the President about Dream Mountains and its potential to continue to match adventure and social justice – something I really hope will happen in the future.

I am really glad he asked.

Do we see poverty in our schools?

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.

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Kindergarten class in El Salvador

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.

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Where do we get help? From wonderful community orientated businesses like Starr Gymnastics

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.