Tag Archives: Poverty

Social Changers: The Big Issue

[This blog has since moved to bybethanyjae.com. Head on over to check it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised… x]

“The Big Issue Australia is an independent organisation that develops and operates social enterprises and creative, sustainable solutions to homelessness; providing opportunities for homeless and marginalised people to positively change their lives.”

The Big Issue is a major social changer when it comes to the lives of those affected by poverty. Founded by John Bird and Gordon Roddick in London in 1991, it’s since spread to eight countries from varying social climates (Kenya, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Japan, Namibia, Ireland and Australia).

In Australia, the main program that they’re known for is The Big Issue Magazine. Released on a fortnightly basis, it’s produced by professional journalists and sold by street vendors – which is what makes this non-profit so special.

The street vendors are what many would consider ‘marginalised’ because of their circumstance. Some are homeless, others have physical disabilities, and others are struggling with addictions; but they all want to improve their lives.

Each magazine only costs $5 with half of the sale going directly to the vendor ($2.50 per issue). And since starting in Australia in 1996, 6 million issues have been sold with vendors receiving $13.2 million.

The vendors are incredible people and if you look at the website, you can read about some of their lives. Check it out here.

Another program the enterprise runs is The Women’s Subscription Enterprise.

Flowing from The Big Issue Magazine, it works on the model where for every 100 magazines subscribed to, a woman is employed. These women are employed by the enterprise to work as Dispatch Assistants, sorting, collating and inserting magazines. But more than that, they are given opportunities to receive training and ways to develop their skills in a great environment. Learn more about it here.

They’ve also started a community initiative called the Street Soccer Program.

With a simple mission: “To use sport as a means to promote social inclusion and personal change for homeless, marginalised and disadvantages people, creating healthier communities.” Participants are able to make friends, get fit and healthy in the process, receive support and advice, find employment, and become part of a community. [Note: Watch the video below on it, amazing.]

The last program run by the enterprise is The Big Issue Classroom.

With the purpose of breaking the stereotypes surrounding homelessness, students learn about not only about it, but also have their level of social awareness developed. This is done through lesson plans, excursions, and the opportunity to hear from someone whose experienced homelessness.

The Big Issue Enterprise is a great social changer. They value, educate, provide, support, encourage, and include those that society may have otherwise overlooked or ignored.

Next time you’re in the city and see a vendor, how about you stop, smile, chat to them for a bit, and buy a magazine (or two). That’s how simple it is to make a difference in their life.

“The Big Issue Australia is proudly non-judgemental and welcoming to all, treating all people with dignity and respect, and promoting independence and self-reliance”.

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The Philippines: The Double P (Poverty + Prostitution)

[This blog has since moved to bybethanyjae.com. Head on over to check it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised… x]

If you’ve been reading these posts you would have gotten a sense of excitement about the trip…which it totally was and we’re all still buzzing from it. But there’s a dark side of that week that I didn’t put in; mainly because I wasn’t too sure about how to tell it with the integrity and justice it deserves.

So, I’m calling this post the double P – Poverty and Prostitution.

Poverty

Prior to leaving for Tacloban, people who’ve gone there before were telling me about the environment, to be brace myself for the poverty and that I’d most likely get some degree of a culture shock there.

Touching down at Tacloban airport, you are immediately welcomed with an entirely different environment than the one you left back in Melbourne. Everything (and I mean, everything!) is green. It’s so beautiful and luscious, and compared to Melbourne’s current brown landscape, Tacloban is a pure tropical heaven.

Travelling from the airport to the hotel though, is when you begin to get see with it – little shacks where people live, the slums, people walking barefoot, transportation, advertisements everywhere, etc, etc.

Note: this was the entrance to the Adore Conference venue. Beautiful!

Yes, the poverty was bad and it’s an injustice in the world. Yes, it’s a terrible, terrible thing seeing how some people live. But in a week what can you really do? You hope that what you did when you visited the slums will help in some way. But realistically, it will take a lot of time, money, manpower, the altering of mindsets and much, much more to see poverty abolished there.

When people travel to Australia, they generally fall in love with the environment. When people travel to the Philippines, they generally fall in love with the people. When you travel somewhere you fall in love with what is enriched there. And we all fell in love with the people.

Australia may have an abundance of material things, but the Philippines have an abundance of richness in character and spirit; something that many Australians lack.

So as much as seeing the poverty opens your eyes to the world around you, you have to keep perspective.

 Prostitution / Human Trafficking

Day Three: Part One – Off To The Mall”. That post was full of excitement as we all went down to the mall for the first time. It was a fantastic day, however I left out part out of it. Here it is…

The Enjoy and New Life crew were sitting in Shakey’s eating lunch. The table across from us sat two older men who looked to be in their late forties, early fifties, and and two Filipino women who looked like they were in there twenties. You might say, “Well they’re just having lunch. What’s wrong with that?” But putting it straight, these men oozed evil. You may think that’s a bit harsh, but if you saw them you would get the same feeling in the pit of your stomach. Looking at them you got a sense that they weren’t going to show these girls what a gentlemen was. And eventually they all left…together.  While we were eating lunch and watching them (not in an obvious way though), everyone was feeling uneasy and it just didn’t sit right with us all.

Talking about it

Why? Because there were countless other times during the week when we’d be eating breakfast at the hotel and there’d be an older Western man eating breakfast with a Filipino lady…and the next morning he’d be eating breakfast with a different lady again.

There’d be times when I’d be writing these blog posts in the hotel lobby late at night and older men (yes, more than one man a night) would constantly go up to their room with a lady…and the next night it would be a different lady again.

And to be honest, I actually don’t recall a night where this didn’t happen.

I’m not going to label these women as prostitutes or victims of human trafficking because we saw so many different situations that it would be unwise to group them all in the one category.

As much as some of us wanted to step in and say something to help the women in Shakey’s or at the hotel, what would we say? If they were in the prostitution industry or a victim of human trafficking, how would we get them out of it? Would we get them out? Would they even want to be helped out of it? What would the men do? How would we deal with them? Where would the girls go after it? Is there even somewhere safe for them to go? Do they even know how to live without having to depend on that industry for money? Will they just end up in that industry again?

So, you have to be wise in situations like that. You could do more damage by acting out of anger and with no protection – and that would be a tragedy to their life. All you can really do is pray and believe.

You may have read stories and seen pictures about it, but nothing can really prepare you for it when you witness it for yourself.

In the words of Thoreau, “It’s not what you look at, but what you see.”

Facts:

– There is an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking.

– In 2008, the Philippines was listed in the top five countries of where human trafficking victims are from

80% of trafficking victims in the Philippines are females and under 18 years of age

For more information on human trafficking, see The A21 Campaign.

Note: I searched for hours trying to find statistics specific to the Philippines, interestingly though, there was very little to no information on it. However, there are many statistics on other countries. Hmm…