Friday, July 4, 2014

The Life We Take for Granted

                My mom persuaded me to come home for the weekend after my classes ended last Thursday. Her tardiness forced me to wait outside for ten minutes in the blazing sun; by the time she drove up to my residential hall, I looked like a jalapeno that decided to swim a mile in the nearest pool. My sister waved at me while I jumped into the back seat, momentarily closing my eyes to listen to the hum of the air conditioner that quickly cooled my red skin. Excited, she asked me about life at Georgia Tech.
                As requested, I proceeded to remember the day’s events. I told her that the eggs at breakfast tasted like plastic and how a mini Mount Everest stood between my classes and an annoyed version of myself after a pitiful breakfast. I complained how it took fifteen minutes to retrieve lunch, thus robbing me of thirty minutes of studying during my break. Thirty minutes! Then, I go to dinner, exhausted from reading eighty pages of Egyptian that my social movement teacher called light reading about social movements, to discover that US lost to Belgium during the quarterfinals of the World Cup, driving me to depression. Afterwards, my friends decided to go to an Italian dinner; I wanted to tag along, but couldn't since I was going home that evening.
                “Wow,” My sister replied. “You became a critic during college.”
                She turned around as I stared into the window, aimlessly watching the passing buildings turned into trees as we approached the suburbs. At the time, I shrugged it off, but I soon realized that I failed to mention the most important aspects that shaped that day:  I was attending one of the best universities in the nation and was currently receiving an education that would secure my dream occupation. Even though the dining halls did not serve five star cuisines, I still acquired three meals a day and walked to my dorm knowing that I do not have to worry about scavenging for food the next morning. I was heading to a place that I called home, a place that provided me with a roof over my head, running water, electricity, and safety throughout the night.
                Most children in this world do not possess such privileges. In fact, instead of spending the day sitting through lectures, kids in poverty search for food, shelter, or escape from rebellion armies that wish to enslave them for their own mischievous purpose, attacking hospitals and schools regularly to kidnap these innocent lives. An UN article reports that armed groups in fourteen countries, such as South Sudan, Syria, and the Central African Republic, train children for their civil wars, violating human right laws that dictate that a person must be eighteen years of age in order to be recruited into hostile environments. In these army, children often carry loads of ammunition to soldiers, act as messengers, or fight in direct action. Kidnapped girls, the most vulnerable civilians to these crimes, often serve as prostitutes to soldiers. In total, twenty three countries fail to provide any protection for their young, resulting in sexual assaults, permanent injuries, and death to many. Those who manage to escape from their servitude suffer severe psychological consequences due to their loss of fundamental rights, including the right of expression, speech, choice, education, and, most importantly, to play, explore, and live like a child.
Though this UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict outrageously demands for legislation to protect these children, the UN fails to achieve substantial ground to prohibit the growth of this inhumane movement.  UNICEF strives to do what the UN cannot. They provide protection, medical treatments, counseling, and education for child soldiers and orphans. In 2009, they helped release 2,813 soldiers that fought in the civil war in the Congo and they rescued 145,000 children from the Syrian conflict in 2012. Ninety one cents out of every dollar donated goes to aid children who struggle to survive every day in these terrible conditions.
Reading this article forced me to realize how lucky I am to be born to a nation that allowed me to develop and define myself throughout my early years of life. In addition, my family, to this day, constantly protects me from violence, provides me with a stable living, and ensures that I always have someone to talk to when I feel discouraged, despite obligations they have. Yet I often find myself taking this great life of mine for granted, quickly forgetting that half way across the world, there is a child soldier staring into the night, wondering if he will survive to the morning.

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