Global Issues: PB&J

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Author: Sailea Nerid

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Paul and his family lived in a village not far from Bassin-Bleu, Haiti. Paul was 10 years old and had three younger sisters – Gina, Anicia, and the baby Rosalie. One of the first things Paul had learned was that his family was poor, so were all the other families living in the village. Very often his friends went to bed hungry, so did Paul. Sometimes when things were not too bad his mother secretly gave some food to their neighbours. His father wouldn't be very happy if he knew. He always said that family was the most important thing in the world and should come first. This included saving whatever they could for bad days that always seem to come. Still Paul’s mother couldn't just ignore her neighbour and her two children; the children's father died during the big earthquake and the family was struggling. Paul remembered little of the earthquake other than the fear, his mother holding him tight, and screams everywhere. A lot of people died, and countless lost their homes and were now living under the stars. Then help came. Paul remembered people who spoke in different languages, giving them food and helping them rebuild their houses. Everybody seemed happier and full of hope. Time passed. The food was eaten and forgotten, so was Paul’s village.

Paul’s father was working for long hours on the field, taking care of the plants on which his family’s meals depended. Paul was old enough to help for several hours but he was not strong enough to make much of a difference. His father’s mood was always dark and he didn't talk much. Sometimes when the family was having dinner, he barked at Paul to stop stuffing his mouth with rice and that poor people should eat moderately, so they have something left for the next day. Paul usually felt ashamed and frustrated and went to bed early those evenings. He knew they were poor just as he knew there were people who were not. Those people didn't need to worry about food, about how much rice they put in their plates, and they ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all the time. Paul had tried one of those while the foreign workers had been helping them rebuild the village. A pretty young lady with blonde hair had smiled at Paul and offered him one of her own sandwiches. It was so tasty. Paul had never tried anything so delicious and often dreamt about it, especially when he went to bed hungry.

Paul loved going to school. He loved his teacher, and the hours he spent reading books about adventures and sea voyages. He liked imagining being a teacher himself or a pirate, definitely a pirate, and having an island of his own, a castle, and mountains of gold. He would have been the richest pirate in the world. He continued daydreaming while working on the field which worried his mother who was saying Paul didn't seem like himself.

One evening Paul’s father told the family that Paul and his oldest sister Gina would not go to school the next day but help all day long in the field. The weather was extremely dry, and since the village didn't have an irrigation canal the family needed to water the plants themselves, which involved a lot of hard work under the merciless Caribbean sun. Paul could hardly hide his disappointment but he knew it was pointless to argue. In the field he spent not only the next day, but many others, taking care of the precious sprouts. It was very frustrating that after all the hard labour and sacrifices, the plants still didn't look good enough, the water was just not sufficient. To make things even worse parasites appeared, eating the green leaves and ruining the crop. Paul heard the men talking grimly that if they had money, they could have bought insecticide and prevented the damage. Some of them suggested writing to the government to ask for their help. No help came at all.

In a month or so the village’s food supplies went lower, and deadly silence occupied most of the houses. Paul was trying to be brave, but he couldn't completely ignore the angry rumble in his stomach. He was also worried about his mother, who looked very pale and one day just couldn't get up off the bed. One of the older women in the village visited them, and Paul heard her talking with his father saying that Paul’s mother was anemic. Paul didn't know what that meant but it sounded scary. What he did understand, however, was that his mother got sick because she was not eating enough, and of course if she had enough food she would be healthy again. The only problem was that there was no food available.

Paul spent most of the night thinking, and went out of the house before dawn. He knew that the mayor still had food left, because he knew his son and he didn't look as hungry as the rest of the children in the village. The boy reached the mayor’s barnyard in less than twenty minutes. He sneaked in through a hole whose place he knew from the last time he played with the mayor’s son. It was dark inside, but somehow he managed to find something that felt like corn. He took some and put them in a bag he brought with himself. Shaking from head to toe, Paul went through the hole again and felt someone grabbing his arm. ‘Little thief,' the mayor shouted. ‘How many times have you stolen from me when I have been welcoming you to my house?’ Paul tried to tell the mayor it was the first time, and that he was sorry but he didn't get the chance because he was being slapped across the face. He felt intense pain and realized the mayor was beating him with his belt. Humiliated and hurt Paul ended up thrown on the road, and his precious bag taken away from him. He stood up and headed home with his head down. He was worried not so much because of the beating but due to his father’s reaction. Paul knew stealing was bad but what choice did he have.

To Paul’s surprise his father said nothing. He didn't comment on Paul's dirty clothes or bruises, just looked at him with unreadable expression. The boy somehow preferred if he shouted at him, so he wouldn't feel like he did something so terrible that his own father didn't even want to speak with him anymore.

A few days after, Paul was sitting under his favourite tree, hungry and miserable, looking at the sky, when he heard a strange noise. Maybe it was a thunder but the sky seemed clear. All of a sudden Paul realized the noise came from a few trucks that were driving towards the center of the village. Paul jumped to his feet and ran after the trucks. When he reached the square, he saw a lot of strangers unloading the trucks and distributing packages among the local people, who looked extremely excited. Paul approached the crowd and recognized his teacher, who smiled at the boy and hand him a package. ‘These are humanitarian packages, Paul.’ he said. ‘Go home with this and tell your dad to come and take more.' Paul finally realized what his teacher was giving him, grinned and ran back as fast as he could. He stormed inside his house and told his family about what happened. His father went out immediately while Paul and his sisters unpacked some food, and helped their mother eat some bread.

This evening everybody was happy, and while unpacking the goods they were given, Paul and his dad talked for the first time in a while. ‘This food will last for a while,' Paul’s dad said, ‘you won’t need to try stealing again.' ‘I am sorry,' Paul mumbled, ‘I was just trying to take care of the family.' ‘I know, you tried to succeed where I failed,’ his dad answered. ‘You are going to be a fine man, son.’ Paul was stunned and touched. ‘But the food won’t last forever, we will need to work and grow a fine crop so we won’t starve,’ the boy said. ‘That’s true,' his father nodded ‘but for now you can just go back to being a kid.' Then the man passed his son two jars. Paul looked at them and gasped, they were peanut butter and jelly and he was wide awake.

Most of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. According to the latest Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics from 2015, there are 795 million hungry people in the world and 98 percent of them are in developing countries. An estimated 146 million children in developing countries are underweight - the result of acute or chronic hunger. All too often, child hunger is inherited: up to 17 million children are born underweight annually, the result of inadequate nutrition before and during pregnancy. Three-quarters of all hungry people live in rural areas, mainly in the villages of Asia and Africa. Overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture for their food, these populations have no alternative source of income or employment. As a result, they are vulnerable to crises.

If you want to help on global level you can donate some money to the World Food Programme. Your money would be spent for much needed humanitarian packages. You can also donate to other organizations like Stop Hunger Now, Action against Hunger, etc. If you want to be more involved, you can organize a local fundraiser. Of course you can help by feeding people/a person who live in your city or mention this problem to more people. You can also support the cause by wearing this signature. Together we can make a difference.

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