Today was a day full of activity and full of issues to consider. Guests from Liberia Orphan Education Project (LOEP) did their part to keep our bodies and minds busy this morning and early afternoon. They shared with us great information about Liberia and their work there, including their support of teachers and students through the recent Ebola crisis. They helped us to consider the right to education, who gets left out of that right, and why. What if you need to spend several hours a day carrying water to your home? What time is left over to attend school? What if the latrine at your school is neither private nor sanitary? How much of a deterrent is that to school attendance? What if you are continually sick because of unclean water or disease transmission from unwashed hands? How able will you be to focus on your studies? Campers made the connection between water issues and education, and then got to try their hands at hauling water for just a short distance — nothing like the long journeys children make daily in some developing countries. Our campers struggled to carry 40 pounds of water in their arms, unlike Liberian children who easily carry that much on their heads. After hauling the water, campers washed their hands, trying to minimize the amount of precious water used. Then we took turns reading several water facts. Did you know that Sub-Saharan Africa alone spends about 40 billion hours per year collecting water, the equivalent of a whole year’s worth of labor by France’s entire workforce?
Next, Emmalee, Beth, and Gary from LOEP led groups of campers in assembling tippy tap hand washing stations from PVC pipes. It was a teamwork challenge that got our campers problem-solving together, and soon we had four stations built. We’ll be donating the stations to Koinonia and to Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village, where they’ll be put to use cleaning hands and helping people think about the importance of hand washing.
Although the right to water is not mentioned specifically in the UDHR, it fits easily into the spirit of Article 25, which states that we all have the right to a standard of living adequate for our health and well-being. Also under the umbrella of Article 25 is the right to food. To explore what that right means, and who gets left out, campers were treated to a “hunger dinner.”
Four campers, along with a few Koinonia residents, were invited to sit down to a multi-course, candlelight dinner. They were waited on and treated with the utmost respect. After a lengthy wait, a second group was shown to a table and given instructions to help themselves from a buffet with beans, rice, and chicken. After an even longer wait, the majority of campers were rudely told that they could get a plate, but only after they sanitized their hands, and that they were free to serve themselves from the leftover beans and rice and sit on the floor. Campers were initially confused by the inequitable treatment, and the longer they waited, the more frustrated those in the last group became. A couple of campers rebelled, and refused to serve themselves at all until they were treated with more respect. Some in the middle offered part of their food to the third group, and one camper left her place on the floor to sit next to a “wealthy” diner until she was shooed away. Later, we processed the emotions and reactions, and campers were asked to describe their experience in one word. “Displaced,” said a camper from the third group. “Outraged,” stated a boycotting camper.
“Sad,” admitted a camper from the elite table. It was not hard to draw parallels between this experience and the reality for millions of people in our world who themselves feel displaced, outraged, and sad about the unjust ways our resources are shared, and the degrading way in which people in poverty are treated.
A final opportunity for reflection was our “peacemaker of the day” story that Jonah shared with the campers this evening. He made the story of George Washington Carver come alive, relating how this former slave and humble scientist helped bring about greater food equality in the U.S. South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Besides his extensive knowledge of peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes, Carver also had plenty of wisdom about life. “Take your share of the world, and let others take theirs,” he said. A good rule, it seems, to live by in this era of growing inequality between rich and poor, as we think about the right we all have to food, water, and education.