I spent last week in Jordan. It’s the home to perhaps 80,000 people, uprooted from their homes in Syria as a result of this bloody awful conflict.
I was there with my team from our Amal project (‘amal’ meaning hope in Arabic), providing small caravan-based classrooms for children. The classrooms are areas where children can learn, play, and be safe. They have books, paper, chalk boards, and fabulous enthusiastic teachers.
The Amal caravan, our fourth in Jordan, is in Al Mafraq outside the main refugee camps of Zaatari and Al Azraq where our first 3 caravans are.
Many families are finding the camps really difficult places to live and bring up children and are moving into safer locations such as Al Mafraq village.
As with all of these trips what I saw there opened my eyes and reminded me that whoever we are, and wherever we’re from, we have responsibilities.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. The opportunities we are lucky to have been given are not there to be squandered. Or taken for granted. They create massive duties in my opinion.
Is it right that if you are six and were born in Aleppo in 2011 that you should now have no access to education? Is it right that you find yourself with no parents or immediate family, as one little boy I met was? Is it right that you walk about with life changing injuries as a result of a mortar bomb? Aged six!
In our lifetimes we have seen an eye-watering amount of wealth created in the world. The financial crisis of 2008 has actually increased the ranks of the super wealthy as a result of deliberate policies to stabilise the world economy.
I’m not an economist. And I’m not a politician. So I do not know why the answer to the crisis of 2008 seems to have been to make the rich richer and the poor just as poor.
As Oxfam pointed out last month on the eve of Davos, runaway inequality has created a world where 62 people own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population.
Is this right?
Look, it’s not for me to tell world leaders how to structure the global economy.
But what I can do is make a few observations. And I have three:
- You need to go and see inequality for yourself.
If you happen to be born into a successful, developed economy, or if you happen to be blessed by a good education or a good job, you need to go and see poverty and disadvantage for yourself. It’s no good sheltering your eyes and pretending it is not happening. It is.
- The wealthy have serious responsibilities.
They have responsibilities to pay their taxes. That goes without saying. But it goes beyond that as far as I’m concerned. Their responsibilities include putting their minds and resources to helping to solve some of these seemingly intractable global problems such as armed conflict, inequality, malnutrition, poor sanitation, and so on.
- Do something about it today.
Put your money where you mouth is. And put your undoubtable talents to helping those people who are not just less fortunate – they do not deserve to be in the situation they find themselves in. Book a week off and get yourself out to Zaatar, the slums of Mumbai, or even your local run down neighbourhoods. You’ll find good people helping there but they could do with your support.
I met a young Syrian woman in the school we opened last week. It’s a small caravan, with space for 20 or 30 children, plus books, games, and teaching materials.
She wasn’t a trained teacher but had a good degree and was devoting her days to doing something about the life chances of the refugee children. As she showed me around she said – do you think people know about us?
I’ll tell them. I said. But I want to do more.