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Let’s Hope So

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 7, Issue 4

April 2012

This newsletter first appeared in December 2007, a month after I had attended a symposium on the subject of 'hope.' I thought it would be interesting to see the changes that have taken place since then. Roméo Dallaire has written a book about the child soldiers that he spoke of, called 'They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers' and James Orbinski has written 'An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century.' The deadline for the 8 UN Millenium Development Goals has been extended from 2008 until 2015. And there have been a number of achievements made since the original goals were created. Change the World in Eight Steps

Lastly, given that we are about to enter our fourth federal election in 7 years, I am curious to see if more youth will vote than in the past. In 2003, Elections Canada polled non-voters to determine their reasons and found that amongst those aged 21-24, 57% didn't vote because they were not interested, 45% because they didn't like the parties, 30% because they didn't think their vote mattered and 37% because they didn't care about the issues. Considering the number of people who are dying to vote in other parts of the world, I wonder if that will have any impact on the number of youth who choose to vote this year.

Last month, I attended a symposium dedicated to the subject of ‘hope.’ I listened to an extraordinary panel of speakers who had seen the worst in life and yet managed to hold out hope for our future. Speakers included Marilyn McHarg, General Director of Medécins Sans Frontières (MSF)/ Doctors without Borders; Dr. James Orbinski, past international president of MSF; Stephanie Nolen, Africa Bureau Chief for The Globe and Mail; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of “Half a Yellow Sun,” a story of the Nigeria-Biafran civil war; Stephen Lewis, former United Nations’ Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and Lieutenant-General and Senator Roméo Dallaire, former Force Commander of the UN mission to Rwanda and author of “Shake Hands With the Devil.” Together, they had traveled the globe and seen the worst that humankind can do.

During the course of the day, I listened with sadness and shock to the statistics about our ‘New World Disorder.’

By the end of the day, I felt exhausted and sadly, not very hopeful. While there were glimmers of hope and examples of some progress being made, the problems at the end of the day seemed insurmountable. In particular, the eight Millennium Development Goals (to reduce poverty, disease, illiteracy, promote gender equality, ensure environmental sustainability, etc.) set out by the UN in the year 2000, seem to be light years away (rather than the proposed 8 years) from being realized. Without these basic changes, it would appear that there is little hope for bringing order to the current world disorder.

There were only two things that left me feeling somewhat optimistic. Knowing that much of our North American youth have become disillusioned with our political system and are more actively involved in political rallies and protests than voting, I was still surprised to learn that only 15% of those aged 18-35, actually vote. Imagine the power this group might wield one day if they decided to protest with their votes. Imagine the influence they might have on our leaders to follow through on their commitments.

The other ray of hope concerns my faith in the resilience of the human mind. As many of you know, LGen. Dallaire returned from Rwanda a broken man. He was haunted with the horrors of what he had witnessed and riddled with guilt for his powerlessness in preventing the genocide. He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for many years. He attempted suicide twice. Many of us had witnessed his fragile state during interviews on the CBC many years ago. Seeing him speak at this conference with such force, passion, and even humour was wonderful. It was also a great testament to the power of the psychotherapy that helped heal him. This brilliant military strategist, diplomat, politician, writer and humanitarian left me with the greatest sense of hope – that with help, healing and humanity, we may emerge stronger than ever. 

To those who will be celebrating Passover and Easter this week, I wish you a happy and a helathy holiday.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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