I am currently in my third year in International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. Social justice has always been an important part of my life. In January 2007, my Cegep group visited the Rio Intag region, in Ecuador, where we heard first-hand accounts of Canadian copper mining companies involved in an attempt to take over the villager’s land, in one of the most beautiful bio-diverse regions in South America. I began to see that in a society where poverty is the norm, it is often symptomatic that women are not treated as equal to men, and children are denied the basic rights of health, education and welfare.
Putting a face on an issue that I had only read about before in newspapers really made me want to do something to, to use an old but true cliche, ‘make a difference in the world’. When we got back to Canada, you can bet I started a petition to protest the way the campesinos were being treated! I am glad to say that our petition may have made a difference, since in November 2007, the government of Ecuador put a stop to all open copper mining projects in their country. They have recently voted to drop all charges against environmental activists, among which were 40 activists from the Intag region.
When I started university, I heard about the campus Oxfam group and was especially interested when I heard about the Hungry 4 Change banquet they were organizing the basic idea is that you take a group of people, divide them into `high, `medium and `low income groups, and serve them food accordingly. This helps you get a sense of what it is like to be part of 98% of the world’s population, where you will get a bowl of rice a day if you are lucky.
The Oxfam campus group has held information kiosks on World Water Day (fun times collecting empty water bottles!) and for the Fair Trade Fair during International Development Week. Our `Public Services For All fight poverty water bottles are selling like hot cakes, and we have a very dedicated team of students who plan to single-handedly get Mr. Harper to earmark 0.7% of Canada’s income to Official Development Aid… well, maybe we could use a little help on that one!
Oxfam has taught me that I CAN make a difference, however small, and that’s really what counts in the end.