For those of you who have seen me over the last few months, you know I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time crying. Not always sad crying, but overwhelmed crying, touched-by-amazing-stories-of-amazing-people crying, feeling-blessed crying, fear crying, anxiety crying, so-much-beauty-around-me crying, I-love-my-dog-so-damned-much crying.
Earlier this week I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment, so I tuned into my favourite radio show of all times, CBC’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti. I caught a follow-up show they were doing on poverty in Canada called “The 10% Have Their Say.” It was a phone-in show for people who live in poverty in Canada to share their stories. I could barely leave the car to go to my appointment as I heard the voices of Canadians who struggle every day to eat, maintain shelter, get work, and take care of themselves, their children or in one case, a seeing-eye dog. Imagine choosing between feeding yourself and your children or your seeing-eye dog. That’s shouldn’t be a choice anyone has to make. It brought me to tears (not surprisingly).
If you tuned into this show, you will have been moved. Guaranteed. If you missed it, you should do yourself a favour and listen to it on CBC’s website or download it on iTunes. There’s also a great discussion on what Alberta is doing to build a comprehensive strategy framework to end poverty. If you don’t have the time to tune in or you are afraid it will hurt to hear these stories, feel free to read some of the realizations I had while listening.
- What poverty looks like in Canada. Check out these facts. You’ll learn that almost 60% of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque and so many other things that will cause your jaw to drop.
- How invisible poverty really is. People are struggling every day and they look just like me even though our lives couldn’t be more different. They might have clothes, they might have shelter, but they could be living on the border of losing everything every day or they just can’t afford to meet their basic needs. Some of them have mental health issues which are also invisible barriers to overcoming poverty.
- How alienated poor people in Canada feel. Many of them don’t have email, internet or phone lines. It’s too expensive to stay connected to community, family, friends and there’s no extra money leftover to pay for high-speed cable to check out the latest YouTube videos and internet crazes. Many callers talked about how alienating it is to not participate in the social aspects of today’s society.
- How poverty is every Canadian’s problem. There are proven links between poverty and health outcomes and crime. This means that poverty in Canada is costing all Canadians who pay for our health and criminal justice systems.
- How many children in Canada aren’t spoiled. While I was cruising comfortably along Crowchild in my car with a heated seat, I heard an 8-year-old girl tell Anna Maria that she didn’t want to say what she wanted for Christmas for fear of hurting her mom’s feelings knowing her parents couldn’t afford her gift ideas. This young girl was racking her brain trying to come up with cheaper wish list items. The sensitivity of these children to their parents’ feelings was heart-breaking.
Of course at the end of all this, you ask yourself how you can help. I’d suggest you check out Canada without Poverty to get informed, but then look around to your own community to see if there are any local agencies that allow you to sponsor families (like Families Matter in Calgary), provide homeless people with the things they specifically need (like the Mustard Seed in Calgary or Edmonton), or take donations for broader programs and policies.
If you know of any other agencies where readers can help, feel free to share them in the comments below.
Leave a Reply