Suicide prevention…because you have the right to life

Suicide prevention…because you have the right to life

Every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world,” according to a 2014 World Health Organization report. That’s 800,000 people each year. The Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention estimates that in my own country of Canada today,

11 people will end their lives by suicide.

210 others will attempt to end their lives.

77-110 people will become newly bereaved by suicide.

Suicide is an issue I am familiar with, and wrote about in my book, Hope for Wholeness: The Spiritual Path to Freedom from Depression.

Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, I am sharing some excerpts from Hope for Wholeness on the topic of suicide. Continue reading “Suicide prevention…because you have the right to life”

Post-Secondary Education: Punishment or Prize?

Post-Secondary Education: Punishment or Prize?

“It’s going to be hell,” she declared. It was the first day of classes of the winter semester of 2012, and her foreboding statement expressed her expectations of the three months ahead. She was a St. Thomas University student, probably barely recovered from the demands of exams and multiple paper deadlines all coinciding in one or two horrific weeks prior to Christmas break.  She was definitely not looking forward to re-living it. I could relate.

My university education was gruelling. It took a toll on me physically as way too many hours hunched in front of a computer screen aggravated my osteoarthritis and caused my neck to burn with pain. The hunching has also led to a weakening of my pectoral muscles and consequent overcompensation by the muscle attached to my shoulder blade, cramping it and necessitating frequent dates with microwaveable hot packs. I developed stress-induced eczema which caused rashes for the five years of my undergraduate and graduate degrees. (I was a sight to behold, at times!) Then there was the extinction of my social life, family time, and even miniscule moments of relaxation. It was enough to have made me declare in the final year of my undergraduate degree, “University is inhumane.”

I never expected to feel that way.

Continue reading “Post-Secondary Education: Punishment or Prize?”

Walmart Canada ignores the high cost of fast fashion

Walmart Canada ignores the high cost of fast fashion

A troubling advertisement showed up on my Twitter feed this morning. It’s back-to-school time, and retailers are targeting parents (and children) with ads telling them what they must have to be prepared for a new school year. Walmart Canada’s ad promoted the social ill of overconsumption, which feeds the “fast fashion” trend. Like fast food, fast fashion is attractive to people who want to purchase a large quantity of a product for as little money as possible. But just as the fast food craze overlooks the consequences of overconsumption to health, the fast fashion trend overlooks the consequences to those in the fashion supply chain.

Walmart Canada thinks Canadian children need a lot of clothing – “tees for every mood.” Walmart’s child model had 10 moods (and 10 different t-shirts) in the 15-second commercial that confronted me on Twitter.

Screen capture from Walmart Canada's Twitter advertisement, 2 September 2015.
Screen capture from Walmart Canada’s Twitter advertisement, 2 September 2015.

And guess what? Having an overabundance of clothing is no longer possible for only the wealthiest in our society. Walmart Canada makes it easy for almost everyone to have more clothing than they need by sourcing outrageously cheap garments and passing on the savings to us: t-shirts, $4 each! Continue reading “Walmart Canada ignores the high cost of fast fashion”

Want to fight terrorism? Target child poverty.

Want to fight terrorism? Target child poverty.

What if guns, drones, and defence budgets were not required in the fight against terrorism? What if militant groups and violent extremists were not the primary targets? What if the battle focused on children and, more specifically, the poverty that robs them of opportunities, a sense of belonging, and hope?

Kennedy Odede, co-founder of Shining Hope for Communities, grew up in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest urban slums. In his recent article in The Guardian, Odede says he’s witnessed what lack of hope can lead to:

I grew up with men and women in Kibera with enough energy, intelligence and entrepreneurial zeal to be a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Many of them were overwhelmed by the constant struggle for basic opportunity, like my dear friend Calvin who couldn’t see any way out and I found hanging one day in his small 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) room. His dreams never had a chance to become reality. There are millions like him.

Odede says poverty erodes “a basic human need: the need to belong.” This makes people vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups and gangs. Continue reading “Want to fight terrorism? Target child poverty.”

Buried childhoods – Child labour in the mining and quarrying sector

Buried childhoods – Child labour in the mining and quarrying sector

Jestoni* quit school at age 14 in order to take part in small-scale mining as a means to help support his family. They had abandoned farming for mining because of frequent flooding in their region of the Philippines. Jestoni’s mother worried about his safety as he dug in mine shafts for gold and carried heavy sacks of rock for eight to 12 hours per day.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than half (85 million) of the world’s 168 million child labourers perform hazardous work. Jestoni was one of the one million who work in mining.

The United States Department of Labor’s 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor indicates child labour and forced labour are used to produce 29 products in the mining and quarrying sector. The top products in this sector, based on the number of countries using child labour in the production, include gold (18 countries[1]), coal (seven countries), and diamonds (six countries), but numerous other minerals, gems, and stones are also mined and quarried with the labour of children. Continue reading “Buried childhoods – Child labour in the mining and quarrying sector”

Obama’s heartbreaking words in Addis Ababa

Obama’s heartbreaking words in Addis Ababa

It only took eight words for Barack Obama to break the hearts of millions of Ethiopians. Alemayehu Mariam was one of them.

Alemayehu (“Al”) Mariam is an Ethiopian lawyer and professor who lives in the U.S., and also a commentator on Ethiopian affairs. This week’s commentary was the most passionate one I’ve read yet. In a response nearly 8,000 words long, Al Mariam expressed shock, anger, and a sense of betrayal upon hearing the man he’d once been proud of convey, what the commentator called, “his total contempt for Ethiopians” in a single sentence.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ethiopia to address the African Union. While there, on July 27th, he took part in a press conference with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. When asked by a Fox News journalist about his “obvious concerns about human rights…in Ethiopia,” Obama paused, looked down, and stated that he was “mindful of Ethiopia’s history,” then followed up with his view of Ethiopia’s recent elections: “the elections put forward a democratically elected government.

Someone aware of Ethiopia’s history is unlikely to draw such a conclusion. Did Barack Obama mean what he said?
Continue reading “Obama’s heartbreaking words in Addis Ababa”