Self-esteem building in a landscape of hopelessness

Hunger, when voluntarily done like when we are on a diet doesn’t leave a feeling of emptiness in our heart. The emptiness is only in our stomach. This kind of hunger is just on the physical plane. But when a family’s food requirement is not met because of unemployment and other poverty-related causes, hunger pangs creep from the mind and then to the heart. When physical hunger invades the mind and heart that’s the time we see youth and adults no longer talking of dead-end as a mark on a road map but simply translating their lives into a dead-end street. Hopelessness fills the air that people breathe. As if the landscape of hopelessness is not enough, poor citizens cities are viewed by many as non-citizens. They get evicted almost always without the necessary processes that laws require.

There is a general sense of blindness to the positive contribution of the poor in the life of the city. It is because of that blindness that the poor tirelessly and endlessly make their existence seen and felt through collective initiatives - like staging rallies calling for strict implementation of laws to protect the rights of the poor, issuing press releases and many others.

When families are jobless and there are not enough opportunities to earn a living, the dead-end icon in the mental monitor of these families push them to situations that do not help them create hope. This is the reason we see children as young as five years old joining the ranks of child laborers. If these children live near fish ports, they gather fish that drop off from containers while these containers are being transported from the fishing boat to the market. Or we see children who gather cardboards or cracked ice so they can sell them to fish vendors . There are also children who have developed the skill of getting fish from containers in the market in a flash of a second with the use of a rod. Of course they do this at the risk of their physical safety. Some children as young as thirteen join the sex industry or join solvent-sniffing gangs. People in circumstances such as these fully know that children or adults sniffing solvent are driven to this activity by hunger and insecurity. There was a time that I asked young boys why they loved sniffing solvent. “To ease hunger pangs” was their quick reply. And aside from escaping hunger pangs, the boys I asked said that when they were in a “high” mood because of the solvent, they felt much bigger than the police or anybody else who wanted to have control over their lives. Very clearly, self-esteem building and community organizing are processes needed in these circumstances.

Hopelessness II is a continuation of Hopelessness I

Hopelessness II