In my day job, I do communications work for development organizations here in East Timor. That means anything from advising people how to develop and communicate key messages, to creating the products by which they mean to communicate (posters, brochures, radio programs, videos). And a lot of random stuff in between.
Doing development work is a study in living contradiction. In fully comprehending the privilege that is awarded by the randomness of birth. I was born in Canada, and not in East Timor. And thus, I had a childhood full of things like toys, amusement parks, camping trips, education, proper nourishment and medical care. Instead of a childhood of hunger, poverty, hard work, conflict and violence - which is the reality for not all, but many children in East Timor, and many other places in the world.
Living in the midst of that is like being an oasis of wellness in a sea of hardship. My house may be simple by western standards, but here I am like the fairy-tale princess. I work alongside national colleagues who earn 1/10th of my salary or less. I live in the capital city alongside families who tend to their livestock and hop the fence to pick fruit from a tree that grows in my yard, a part of their yearly income on which they deeply depend. I express sympathy for colleagues when their infant children die of completely preventable and treatable diseases. I shop amidst the harassment of child and adolescent fruit sellers carrying a stick across their shoulders hanging with mangoes, oranges, passionfruit, their young muscles hardened by carrying their heavy load day-in, day-out.
In East Timor:
- Life expectancy is less than 60 years of age;
- 2 out of 5 children will die before they reach the age of 5;
- The average woman has no access to birth control, and will give birth to between 7 and 9 children in her lifetime; many of them will have their first child before the age of 18;
- Barely half the population have access to clean water or sanitation facilities;
- Nearly half the population live a subsistence life, on less than $1 per day (and in a US dollar economy, yes that's right, this really does not go very far).
What can I do about it? Not very much, really. And I guess that's why I don't blog about it often. My blog is like an escape into this little yoga world, the world that I share with all of you, the way that I find peace.
If you'd like to know a bit more about East Timor, I've put a page on my sidebar that tells a little bit of its story...