When I was fifteen, there was only one thing I truly wanted for my birthday. That thing was the opportunity to sponsor a child. Through my parish in my hometown, I was able to get in contact with Christian Foundation for Children and Aging and ended up sponsoring a bright Honduran boy, not much older than my brother. His name is Oscar and he comes from a close, loving family. He loves to play, to laugh, and to sing. His favorite subjects are math and Spanish.
Today, I just received heartbreaking news that Oscar has decided to quit school. He made it through primary school (a big feat for a Honduran child) but has to now work with his father to help his family. Thus, there will be no more school for this intelligent boy.
As you can imagine, even though he has decided this, it kills me. It kills me that education is not considered an automatic right of these children, but a privilege reserved for only the elite among our kind. It kills me that so many children are caught between helping their families eat and continuing their education. It kills me that, in this country, people care more about whether two men marry each other than whether a child can go to bed with a full tummy or learn how to read and write. Finally, it kills me that, regardless of what I did, the system is still the same at the end of the day. It kills me that this system failed my godchild.
This is why I encourage you all to write or call your Congressman (or woman and your Senators while you're at it) and tell them to co-sponsor the bill H.R.2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act. Our government spends less than one percent of all funds on foreign aid and the money that we do spend is managed badly. At the same time, when foreign aid is used correctly, it makes a world of difference. Because of aid, more people have access to anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV than ever before. Because of foreign aid, 29 million more children in Africa have the opportunity to attend school. Even in places like Iraq, the areas with the least casualties are the ones being helped by U.S. AID, according to a couple of experts who have asked to remain nameless (and yes, I have heard them speak today, at our National Gathering for Bread for the World).
Our economy is tough. I am not suggesting that the U.S. forget its own poor and hungry people. Rather, I am pointing out the sad truth. As tough as our situation is over here, it is infinitely worse in places like Honduras, places like Ethiopia. Places where one sick day can cost a livelihood, where one natural disaster can set back any hope for development by several years. Places where children have to choose between school and food, where mothers are likely to lose at least two children before the tender age of five. Places where people die of AIDS because drug companies worry more about their so-called intellectual rights more than the people they have the power to save.
This is a question of our security, of our ability as a nation to truly promote liberty and justice for all, FOR ALL. We are obligated, as individuals and as a nation, to fight for those two values, those we claim to hold so dearly, and those that many of our brave ones give their lives for. We have the chance to make a true and lasting change. But it's not "the government" doing this, it's we the people because we live in a democracy, a government by the people for the people. We have the power of the vote, of the pen, and of the voice. We need to use every weapon in our arsenal and stand for our brothers and sisters. Otherwise, we cannot stand at all.