So this week, I have realized that my words are not nearly as impressive as those of the others. Thus, here are the stories of two 15-year olds and a 17-year-old girl from our center when I asked them what the biggest problem in their communities were.
“My community has a lot of negative issues, teenage pregnancy, drug and substance abuse, actually all sorts of abuse, unemployment as well as police being corrupt (taking bribes), but, I will discuss only one issue, which is drug abuse. Drugs are killing my community little by little. The worst thing is that people who sell drugs are not using them and they also sell these drugs to scholars. The painful thing is that these drug lords do not get arrested because of desperate police officers who allow bribery. Many (the majority) of people in my community are uneducated, so they cannot get jobs, so in order for them to live they sell drugs. I, as an individual, think that this problem of drug selling is caused by unemployment/poverty. Individuals who use drugs do not work so in order to get drugs they then steal from their neighbors or start mugging people. This hurts because each and every day I find a parent to is really worried about his/her kid. The most painful part is that parents really struggle to meet our needs as children and yet the youth in my community are letting all the bad things influence them. Mob justice is sometimes caused by people who steal for drugs. Parents start neglecting their own children. Most people think males are the ones who abuse drugs but in my community even females do. Out parents do not use drugs but alcohol seems to control them.”
“I am first going to describe what a drug is and where it comes from. A drug is a substance used in medicine and a drug is also a substance taken because it affects the senses or the mind (e.g. a narcotic or stimulant especially one causing addiction such as heroin or cocaine). Where a drug comes from: a drug comes from medicine (ARVs) and ARVs are used to treat HIV and AIDs, but most people use ARVs for making drugs and mostly in our community people use it to get high while those infected with HIV and AIDs use it to get well. In our community drugs are getting worse and worse because even the young children go on drugs now. [The issue with] drugs that makes me feel very bad is that everyone must not smoke drugs because drugs are not there for drugs, they are there for sick people. The causes they have on an individual are making it so people must steal from their own homes and are starting to become gangsters and that is very bad. It is very important not to use drugs because drugs change your life badly and some people don’t change they always want to be on drugs. When you want to be on drugs your future will be messed up and everyone in your community will talk about you and they will say that girl was a good girl but now she is on drugs and messing up herself. So if you do drugs you must know you are messing up your future and for this future you need to put everything in in order to go far in life. Never give up on life because life will never give up on you. Hugs not drugs.”
“ I live in an informal settlement that is known as Kliptown. I usually see a lot of bad or negative things that happen in my community. Drugs have become one of the biggest problems in my community. Everyone uses drugs, even young children. Therefore, I feel very insecure and unsafe in my community because these people that use drugs, I see them every day. Sometimes I even see them during the process of using drugs, I end up thinking that they might kill or rape me because they will not be thinking straight at the moment. I think it is important to change this negative impact in my community because it is important to change this negative impact in my community because it is affecting everyone including teenagers. Teenagers end up using drugs because they think it is a good idea to do. It had a huge impact on teenagers because they drop out of school because they cannot understand or focus in class. Drugs damage their brains. Victims cannot live without drugs so they steal kill or rob people to get money. Therefore, we will end up living in fear because of these people. The worst thing is that there are drug dealers in my community. Drugs will make an individual suffer and become a drug addict. It will make our crime rate increase.”
Take that in.
Now, we often talk about the problems in our lives, the problems in our communities, the problems in our world. As international workers, as economists, as academics we love to generalize about problems, their origins, and their solutions. The world is a math problem that is ours to solve. But what happens when you throw substances into the mix that destroy the foundations of moral action? What happens when we are dealing with people who are no longer acting as people and are throwing variables that I have never dealt with into the mix?
We have those who know them, solve them. Meaning we have to empower, support and accept the shortcomings of those who live in these areas to have them create solutions. I, as an outsider can do very little in order to solve a problem I know very little about. This goes for Africa, this goes for North America. The way to solve problems is to share their story and then empower that story to create progress for a better future. How is that done? I have no idea, but I’ll keep thinking about it.