Posterchild at a cost

Posterchildren always give me an uncomforable feeling. They often get the help they need, but the price could be high. It also makes me think of all the children in the same situation we don’t help. Sometimes it’s because we don’t know about them, but it’s frequently because they don’t have the “ahh factor” that makes us want to help them. Many people were willing to help a few days ago after a student took a photo of a child doing homework outside a MacDonalds in the Philippines.

I follow several news outlets on facebook and I believe New York Post was the first of these to share this story. Their headline Lazy kids should see this boy who did homework outside MacDonald didn’t seem fair to me. The Daily Mail advised parents to show this picture the next time their children moaned about anything. Both papers have a certain point. No matter how bad things get for most of us, it’s probably not as bad as it was for this boy. As a result of this going viral people have donated the family gifts, so they’ll be alright for a while, but for how long and how many children are in the same situation? What are we doing to prevent this?

Just before this happened I read about 17 year old Reynaldo Nilo from the same country. He had rheumatic heart disease and needed surgery. They found out about this Italian charity organization through a documentary film. It’s interesting by the way that he had to go to Sudan for this. We never hear about Africa as leading in complex heart operations, as this hospital in Khartoum is. The situation didn’t have to be as serious as it was. Nilo was infected by strep throat as a child and it led to rheumatic heart disease because he didn’t get antibiotics at the time, which would probably have killed him before he turned 20, if he didn’t get this surgery. So it was really close. Read the story in Guardian.

This is a story of a Somali boy that became a poster child for African famine, but there were so many other children in the same situation. I had a lot of respect for Bob Geldof and the Live Aid concerts many years ago. They made the Nigerian girl Birhan Woldu a poster child in the 1980’s. She survived, but it also made her life very difficult. Read the story in Mirror.

I have heard of a few cases over the years of children that have been flown to Europe, including my own country, to get the best possible medical treatment. This is usually innocent victims of landmines or other type of weapons that were meant for soldiers. It’s not that I am not happy for them. It’s only fair that they get help when we could have prevented it from ever happening, but is it fair that we don’t help all of them?

We are having a lot of cases in Norway where families are being deported after they have applied for asylum, and they have run out of appeals. Norway also deports children who come here alone. This cruel policy has been criticized by the UN numerous times, but it doesn’t change annything. No one wants to help and this doesn’t bother us much. There is a case right now where a family is being sent back to their home country Albania. One of the children has a brain tumor, which means that he won’t be treated at all. Albania is a very poor country where everything costs, a lot. According to a friend of the family the boy can only get treatment if they bribe someone and then pay for the treatment. Even if the right people were to change their minds, which I doubt, would it be fair that we chose to make this one child a poster boy? There are allready families in Afghanistan, Jordan, Serbia, Congo and other countries where one or all the children have lived their whole lives in Norway. I have seen cases where they have been legally in Norway for 8 years, and suddenly they are deported.

Back to the New York Post story. The newspaper headlines suggest that there are no excuses, and if you fail, it’s because you were lazy. Are there really no excuses? I can see many factors that would give a child from a poor family some disadvantages. How about a single mother that would have two work two jobs just to keep her family off the street? She would have to buy the cheapest possible food, which isn’t healthy. She may not have the energy to help her children with the homework, or insist that they do it. As a parent to a child on the autism spectrum I know its hard enough being two parents. We have been in a difficult financial situation, but it’s not poverty like you see in the Philippines, and our struggles with money is mostly because we have to pay for things that will help our child develop. When it’s a struggle in a socialist country, imagine how it is in a country with far fewer options.

Many people gave this boy from the Philipines paper and pencils. I am sure that was needed, and I’m sure he appreciated the kindness, but I don’t think they removed his biggest obstacle. I hope this boy will reach his goals, but knowing people have made him a poster boy and possibly taken some major poetic license when they shared his story on social media, he might find it harder to deal with later. It’s practically like being known as the boy who lived.

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