October 31, 2011

What About Butter? (October 31, 2011)

Tomorrow I dive into the struggles of the working poor, and my mind is on butter.  I know . . . strange.  Well, not really.

Some time ago I had opportunity to travel to Berlin, Germany for a conference and, as is my custom, I went in search of local cuisine.  My colleague and I happened upon a quaint German pub/restaurant, and I enjoyed one of the most memorable meals of my life.  The highlight of the meal for me was the salad . . . sausage salad.  With nothing "leafy" in sight, the sausage salad was about four inches deep of delectable sliced cold sausage covered in purple onion, savoury oil, four long pretzel sticks, a big crunchy pickle, and two glorious large slabs of butter.  When it arrived at the table, I sat wide-eyed and drooling while my colleague clutched his chest concerned that simply being in the vicinity of the cholesterol monstrosity on my plate may trigger a heart attack.  Further, he wondered how I was going to eat the butter without any bread or buns.  I scoffed indicating that bread was merely one possible "transportation device for the butter", and then devoured the entire salad using the sausage as my vehicle of choice for the butter. I then dutifully called my wife to assure her that I was was being "a good boy" by eating salad as I travelled.

I've told that story for years, mostly to shock my listener with my gluttony in that moment.  And every time I've told it, until today, I thought that it was only a story about gluttony.   Today, as I wonder about whether bread or potatoes or rice would be prudent purchases tomorrow as I start Phase II of That Poverty Project, I realize that the story, especially as it pertains to the butter, is equally a statement about luxury.  As much as I love butter with my food, I'm not sure I'll be able to afford it, at least not at first.  I guess I'll have to cross my fingers and see how it goes at the grocery store in the next few days.

Of course, butter is not the only thing causing me concern.  What about meat or milk or eggs or fruit?  What about seasonings?  I'll likely "find" some salt and pepper packets, but what about the hot spices I love so much?  I've pretty well accepted the fact that I will not likely be able to afford my all time favourite food . . . cheese.  As for non-food items, while I have toothpaste from my last dentist visit and I've kept my beard so that I don't need to buy razors, but what about soap and shampoo?  I expect that I may be able to afford some of these items once I've stocked up on bulky cheap things to eat (i.e. potatoes, oatmeal, rice) that don't need to be bought every day.  But then the question occurs to me . . . will I be able to afford gas AND food?  Once again, I guess time will tell but I suspect I'll be doing a lot of walking again.

The "Living Parameters" for Phase Two of That Poverty Project are now posted on the website.  Hmmm . . . I've never been so grateful as I am today for not having a caffeine or nicotine addiction.  However, I do have a flavour and variety addiction that I suspect may cause some withdrawal symptoms.  Stay tuned.

IMPORTANT NOTE - While I may feel sorry for myself from time to time, I do keep forefront in my mind all of the millions of Canadians and billions of people around the world who have far greater challenges than those described above and in the "Living Parameters".  It is their fortitude that gives strength.


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Homeless in Las Vegas

While I'm not sure everyone is one pay cheque away from being on the streets, this fellow's point is still valid . . . homelessness can happen to most any of us. 

I found this short video another valuable glimpse into life on the street that helps us understand it better AND helps break the terrible stereotypes plaguing those without a home.  "Rick" has some interesting points to make . . . e.g. elect someone who has known troubles and you'll see some changes in dealing with those in need.



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October 27, 2011

7 Billion: Are You Typical? (National Geographic)

I am going "radio silent" for a few days before starting the next phase of That Poverty Project.  I guess it's "cyberspace silent" now.  I'll be away working a retreat weekend, and I hope to be refreshed because I expect that Phase II - Struggles of the Working Poor will take its toll on me.

In the meantime, here is a short video by National Geographic that addresses an interesting question.  What is a "typical" person like?




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Marg Delahunty Inadvertantly Uncovers the Real Enemy of Poverty (October 27, 2011)

"Marg Delahunty" of CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes
as portrayed by comedian, Mary Walsh.
Okay, I'm weak . . . I just can't resist the temptation to weigh in on the debacle of the last couple of days involving Toronto's mayor, Rob Ford.  Please forgive me . . . it's not for the reasons you might expect.

Normally I wouldn't comment on a municipal event that on its surface really doesn't have anything to do with governing directly.  However, this event so perfectly illustrates an attitude that interferes with helping those in need that I have to take the plunge.

First some context.  For those who haven't heard, Mayor Ford was unexpectedly approached at his home by Mary Walsh of CBC's satirical news show, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes".  As many (dare I say "most"?) Canadians are aware, Ms. Walsh has a character named Marg Delahunty who has surprised a number of politicians in the past (including former Prime Minister Chretien) in order to have an impromptu "media" interview.  This particular incident with Mayor Ford is explained and shown in the following CBC reports:

Rob Ford's Tantrum (video report)


Essentially, after being approached, a smiling Mayor Ford climbs into his vehicle only to immediately get out and go into his house.  Apparently, Mayor Ford then made two calls to 911 in which he uttered profanities about the dispatchers while reminding them "I'm Rob f-ing Ford, the mayor of this city!"  Later, Mayor Ford would describe how he felt troubled during the incident (referring to his daughter being scared, having received death threats, etc.) and mentions that he "told the police".

I can understand how he may have been annoyed, caught off guard, or not known how to respond.  After all, CBC entered onto his private property and all of a sudden he was in the midst of what was obviously a comedy routine.  Even so, Mayor Ford's response was WAY beyond that which was reasonable in the situation and, more importantly, demonstrated a mindset that causes me great concern.
  • He called 911 when it was absolutely unnecessary to do so, and then was extremely abusive in the process.   The elected leader of a mega city, or even a hamlet for that matter, should know better than to do such a thing.  Terrible behaviour . . . an abuse of the system and an abuse of people.
  • Afterwards, Mayor Ford seems a little loose with the truth when describing the event.  He essentially places Marg Delahunty in the same category as the death threats he received.  Really??  And, then he brushes over the whole 911 thing by describing it as having "told the police".  Again . . . REALLY?? I can understand wanting to save face after an embarrassing episode, but let's not be ridiculous.  
  • "I am Rob f-ing Ford, the mayor of this city!"  This one I totally get (tongue firmly in cheek).  He was angry about not receiving the mayor's level of service from emergency crews as opposed to the level of service regular citizens get when their life is threatened by middle aged microphone bearing comedians.
It is this last one that I find the most disturbing.  I certainly may be wrong, but it sure looks like an eruption of a self-righteous sense of entitlement.  If it walks like a duck and quack likes a duck . . .

It is self-righteous sense of entitlement by those with resources, authority, and influence that I believe is the real enemy of poverty.   To be clear, I am not saying Mayor Ford is an enemy of poverty, but rather the attitude he displayed is the culprit.  What is "self-righteous sense of entitlement"? It is a false sense of moral superiority that justifies using one's resources, authority, or influence to serve one's self interests despite the needs of others.  We usually see this expressed as, "It's mine! Why should I have to share it with others?"  Of course, such a view is not only selfish but also short-sighted, based upon selective history and reasoning, and contrary to any number of moral codes. 

(Editorial Note - This last statement, ironically, may be seen by those who disagree with me as itself an expression of self-righteous sense of entitlement.  Hmmm . . . I don't think so, but I can see the argument.  I take solace in the fact that my statement is to the benefit of others and not myself, and in keeping with internationally recognized human rights.)

This characteristic is detrimental to the alleviation of poverty when expressed by an individual as an excuse not to help others.  However, it is absolutely disastrous to poverty eradication efforts when representative of an entire people collectively.  Unfortunately, while not often spoken, it is this mindset that tends to govern the actions of many countries.  While I am not opposed to countries looking "after their own first", I get extremely troubled when countries don't look after their own AND don't take enough action to help those starving elsewhere while spending valuable resources on secondary wants and needs of its citizenry.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that filling tummies of impoverished people everywhere must take precedent over filling potholes anywhere.

Getting back to Mayor Ford, I have one final note.  Whenever I see him recently I can't help but also think of a recently circulated video of a private barbecue hosted by the Fords for Prime Minister Harper and some other federal Conservative politicians.  While the video has since been removed from the Internet, a full description of the video can be found in the news (Ford, Harper Love-In Video Surfaces).  I just hope that the attitude demonstrated by Mayor Ford is not shared by his "new fishing buddy," Prime Minister Harper.    What's the old saying . . . birds of a feather barbecue together? 

(Okay, that last bit was cheeky . . . but did I mention I am weak? That said, my mind would be put at considerable ease with respect to the Prime Minister if the Canadian government would come up with a comprehensive strategy to eradicate poverty in Canada AND also meet its international commitment of providing 0.7% of its GDP towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  Just saying.)


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October 26, 2011

Learnings from the Tent (October 26, 2011)

Phase I of That Poverty Project may be over but it's presence is still felt by me everyday.  With a focus on homelessness while living for the better part of three months in a sparsely equipped tent, I'm sure that the lessons I have learned will be with me for a lifetime.

In the realm of things-that-probably-don't-make-a-difference-to-anyone-else, I have noticed some changed behaviours within me as a result my time outside.  For example, watching television is no longer part of my daily routine.  Whereas I used to watch TV every evening, now I rarely even think of turning on the tube as something to do.  Similarly, I haven't had too much inclination to snack.  Sure, I have snacked . . . but not every night like I used to.  I suspect there is a strong correlation between the snacking and the change in my television habit.   Also, as much as I dreamed of showers while I was in the tent, I find that I don't need to have a shower every day.  It's certainly nice to have the option, but it is no longer a requirement.  Will these last?  To be honest, I don't know.

On a grander scale, there are some things I learned that I think everyone could benefit from giving some consideration . . .

#1 - I don't need "as much".   As mentioned above, I don't need television as much or showering as much.  However, I also find I don't need the car as much, and I don't eat as much (I still eat a tonne, but not a tonne and a half like I did).  And, as you'd also expect, I don't need as much stuff. I haven't bought myself anything except for a new CD released by one of my favourite singers.  All of this means less energy consumed, less resources used, and more time on my hands.

#2 - Mind games are not fun.  The number of mind games that one gets sucked into was the single greatest surprise to me during Phase I.  I felt dirty, second class, "less than".  When I spoke with Deb Runnalls at The Mustard Seed in Calgary, this was partially explained when I learned that street homeless often apply the stigma and prejudice against the homeless to themselves.  Particularly in a society where many "have" and there is visible abundance, there is a huge inclination to fall into this trap.

#3 - Psychologically speaking, there is a HUGE difference between camping and living in a tent.  The factor that creates the difference is choice.  Without choice, living outside is no longer recreational.  This isn't just semantics or a mind game, it's real . . . and for some it is incredibly depressing.

#4 - Everyone that is homeless is a real person, just like you and me.  This seems obvious, but I think it is something that we need to be reminded often.  The stereotypes and myths about "laziness" or that people created their own poverty are not only wrong, but incredibly hurtful to overcoming poverty.  Each homeless person, whether on the street or in a refugee camp, are unique individuals with gifts and needs just like everybody else.

#5 - Gratitude.  While I have always considered myself a grateful person, I am now especially grateful for those things that I had previously taken for granted.  I am thankful for warm beds, clean clothes, hot showers, the company of others, and electric lights to name just a few.  These are incredible blessings that everyone should be able to appreciate.


So . . . what would you add? 

Are there some other things you learned during Phase I of That Poverty Project?


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Visualizing a Plenitude Economy

I would argue that the world economic system is failing, or at the very least not working well.  This is evidenced by the growing gap between rich and poor, 80% of resources being consumed by 20% of the population, unsustainable consumption of resources, billions of people living in poverty, and widespread discontent.  Beyond complaining about it (which does have some value) . . . what can we do about it?

There are a lot of different ideas ranging from tweaking our current system to changing the system.  One idea is a "Plenitude Economy"  (plenitude: an abundance; the condition of being full or complete), as explained by the following video. 


To find out more about this idea, you can go to www.newdream.org.



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October 25, 2011

Is Poverty a Death Sentence?

I found this short video quite an interesting glimpse into the debate over poverty.  Of course, the truth lies somewhere in between. 

I absolutely agree with Senator Sanders and the side of the argument that says it is crucial to immediately address the needs of people better, and to address the root causes of poverty.  However, this side sometimes does not give enough credit for some of the good steps and work currently being done.  The other side, while touting the good work being done, downplays the need and uses the current efforts as an appeasement of guilt felt in the face of such huge need, i.e. an excuse to not do more.

I actually laughed out loud at one of the responses to the question as to whether or not people are dying because they are not getting medical attention.  People who cannot afford health care insurance absolutely are dying because they cannot afford medical intervention . . . they are living shorter lives and dying from things that should not kill them.  Adding to the absurdity of the response that people were not dying because of lack of insurance was that the "expert" making the statement was a plastic surgeon!



 
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October 24, 2011

Flaming Undies

WARNING . . . What you are about to see cannot be unseen.  After viewing this rather bizarre video, members of That Poverty Guy's family have sought information about the witness protection program. Viewer discretion is advised.  :)

I said I'd do it, and so I did it.  As promised during Phase I of That Poverty Project, I became so utterly disgusted by my deteriorating undergarments that I vowed to "burn my undies" upon the conclusion of my time in the tent.  It should be added, although upon viewing it will become blatantly obvious, this video was made purely for entertainment and does not contain any higher intellectual content.  I mean, like, none whatsoever . . . seriously.

No animals were hurt in the production of this video, although the same cannot be said for two rather well used pairs of underwear and one innocent soup pot.


To find out what That Poverty Project is really about . . . CLICK HERE.



Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

October 19, 2011

Girls NOT Brides . . . Traditions Can Change

I've joked for a long time that my daughter shouldn't date until she's 35 years old.  While I'm not being serious, of course, the sentiment arises from a very serious desire to love and protect her.  I have two children, a 12 year old daughter and a 16 year old son, and I love them equally . . . with the entirety of my being.  I want them both to do whatever they want with their lives, to love and be with whoever they want, and for them to be treated by the world as the equals that they are.  My children inspire me to do much of the work that I do.

Unfortunately, far too many girls do not have equal rights compared to their male counterparts.  Many girls around the world are still treated like little more than personal property . . . of their father or brother, and then of their husband.  The result is marriage far too young, too many babies, increased risk of death during child birth, lack of education, and in many cases extreme poverty.  The good news is that this CAN change.

The following fantastic short video was produced for Girls Not Brides, and deals with the problem of girls being betrothed and wed  . . . way, way, WAY too young.  And, it's not a small problem, it takes place to the tune of over 25,000 times EVERY DAY.  The video features commentary by Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland and currently the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Graca Machel (International Advocate for Women & Children's Rights), and Desmond Tutu (Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Laureate).




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October 17, 2011

Going the WRONG WAY! (October 17, 2011)

If you've ever watched the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles starring John Candy and Steve Martin, you'll likely remember one of the funniest scenes ever to hit the big screen.  John Candy's character was driving late at night when he turns into the wrong lane of a divided highway.  A driver from another car going in the same direction (but in the proper lane) yells out of his window, "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!"  John Candy turns to Steve Martin and quips something to the effect of, "Yeah right . . . he doesn't even know where we're going!"  He then turns back to the other driver and mimes having a drink while saying, "Have another drink fella!"  John Candy and Steve Martin then continue to chuckle about "the drunk" in the other car until they see a huge semi truck bearing down on them. 

It's all fun and games until the same thing happens to us.

Individuals experience "going the wrong way" all the time.  In busy lives with lots going on, it's easy to lose our focus or become unbalanced in our life.  As we continue down a path to our own destruction we get warning signs that we're actually headed in the wrong direction (not necessarily regarding what we are doing, but how we are doing it).  These warning signs may be in the form of the physical - exhaustion, getting sick, or aches/pains; the emotional - getting on edge, being anxious, or otherwise demonstrating that your "reserve" is gone; or the psychological - negative thought patterns, paranoia, or depression.  Sometimes we can get momentary relief to these problems by taking some time off or buying something new to treat ourselves, but the warning signs will keep returning until we really deal with the root of our problem.  If we don't deal with it in time then we ultimately crash (e.g. nervous breakdowns, marriage failures, suicides, mid-life crisis, etc.).  It's very important for each of us to regularly do a self-assessment to see if we are on the right track in how we live our lives and care for ourselves.

The exact same thing happens collectively in groups, clubs, not-for-profit organizations, businesses, and even nations.  We start going down a path, things happen along the way, we react to them (and sometimes institutionalize our reactions), and before we know we are off track.  By "off track" I mean that if we take a step back and look around, we'll find ourselves some distance from our core values, true priorities, or guiding vision.  This can express itself in a variety of ways . . . discord within the group, lagging results for the organization or business, or complete failure of the collective initiative.  With respect to nations and society at large, such a situation can result in economic or political upheaval, civil unrest, and general discontent in various sectors.  Presently, all around the world we see a number of stresses on humanity . . . environmental, social, political and economic . . . that are in fact warning signs that something is extremely wrong.  And, similarly, activists are often like the driver of the other car yelling, "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!"

Unfortunately, it's too easy to dismiss the activist as a complainer, or with an agenda, or out of his/her mind. "Have another drink!"  And, it is true that some activists fit this description.  However. we must be careful to not judge too quickly; and, even if doubting the warning, it is prudent to take a look around to ensure we are in fact on the correct path.  Failure to do so may leave one in the path of the proverbial huge semi-truck bearing down on us.  And, when the voices are coming in the hundreds of thousands from 80 different countries, then it would be absolutely negligent to not stop and make sure we are going the right way.

The Occupy Movement has been described as lacking leadership, clear and unified demands, and any concrete solutions.  All of this may be true.  However,if it is true then it becomes even more critical to pay attention.  The fact that there is no clear leader indicates a true rising up of the people.  The fact that there are a wide variety of demands speaks to the breadth of issues that needs to be addressed (each representing economic, social and political justice).  The fact that there are not many concrete solutions being proffered may represent the depth and complexity of the issues involved, i.e. there are no easy answers.  A massive uprising by people of all walks of life from all around the world, raising concerns about a variety of complex life and death issues, demands at the very least discussion at the highest levels of society with those who are concerned.

I actually think that the Occupy Movement, like That Poverty Project, is not about specific demands as much as it is about expressing concern regarding the overall direction of society.  Sure, there are specifics but if we treat each issue separately while operating within the same paradigm that got us going the wrong way, then it simply treats the symptoms and doesn't really cure the dis-ease.  We, as a society, need to look at our overall direction and be prepared to make a paradigm shift if such is necessary.  A good place to start is by asking . . . "What is important?" . . . "What are our core values?".  Only then can we embark on a course correction, and follow our true priorities where they lead.

It is my hope that we will collectively come to realize that we can only truly prosper as a people and a healthy society when we have addressed the widening inequality between people and ensured that EVERYONE  EVERYWHERE has food/water, shelter, access to health services and proper sanitation, basic education, and freedom from fear.  It is only from this solid foundation that we can achieve real progress and allow everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential.


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October 12, 2011

Hidden in Plain Sight (October 12, 2011)

Often, if you can see one of the ladies in the
above picture, then you cannot see the other.
The picture is a famous optical illusion of
a young woman AND an old woman.
Similarly, we have to remind ourselves that
poverty exists and needs to be addressed,
even if we don't see it easily.
Poverty is easy to overlook in western society because for the most part it is hidden unless you deliberately look for it.  Sure there are those who don't have their wits about them, often due to intoxicants or illness, that are easy to see in the streets . . . but they are only the visible minority.  The rest are often out of sight, and therefore, sadly, out of mind.

Let's start with street homeless.  As mentioned, we often see those actually "on" the street who may be too stoned or too ill to be able to hide themselves.  However, there are many more street homeless than we actually see on the streets.  Some hide (i.e. live) in abandoned transport containers, or under bridges, or within small storage trailers, or out in the bush, or in their car.  Others find refuge on a friend's couch or in their basement.  Still others can be found occupying a mat in a local shelter.  "They" walk among us . . . perhaps even working with us . . . and then at the end of the day retreat to whatever accommodation they are able to find.  I remember hearing a statistic from The Mustard Seed shelter in Calgary that 60% of its guests are employed.  Given the stigma and knock to one's self-esteem that comes with being homeless, no one goes out of their way to advertise that they are homeless.  Of course, as some jurisdictions are doing, once we choose to look at the issue then strategies can be implemented to eradicate homelessness.

Turning now to the working poor, people in such circumstances in Canada and other developed countries are way more prevalent than the homeless.  In Canada, 10% of all people are below the poverty line; and in the USA it is close to 15%.  Other developed countries have more, and some less, but it is an issue for everyone.  Once again, the working poor will not wear their net worth around their neck in a flashing neon sign, but rather will silently struggle trying to make ends meet that never seem to meet.  These are regular people, they could be you or me, and the stigma against poverty in a society that values being able to look after yourself keeps them psychologically isolated from the rest of the community.  Their kids are the ones who go to school without a lunch (and hope that no one sees them getting the "free lunch" so they don't get picked on), and who go fill their bellies with water during snack time.  Once again, if we decide as a society that we will not tolerate anyone having to suffer trying to get their basic human rights satisfied, then we can put in programs and policies to fully address the issue.

Of course, the billions in some degree of poverty around the world, especially the 1.3 billion in extreme poverty, are much more visible . . . but not necessarily to those of us living in the developed world.  Unless we watch the news or specifically search for 'world poverty' on the Internet, it is easy to put on the blinders and see only what we want to see.  We can see a majority of us with cars, housing, fashionable clothes, and electronic gadgets/phones; and lull ourselves into forgetting how lucky we are and that we're, in fact, part of the rich minority in the world.  However, if we could somehow remove the barriers of distance and time in order to co-mingle with everyone else, it would be all too clear how privileged and advantaged we truly are.  Simply opening our eyes to what is there to be seen would lead us, I believe, to taking greater and immediate action to eradicate extreme poverty around the world.  And, yes, we have the ability to do that, too.

Thus, the underlying objective for That Poverty Project is making poverty visible.  It's about advocacy on behalf of those who are either unwilling or unable to speak for themselves.  It's about engaging more people in combating poverty so that fewer people need to feel its iron grip; fewer need to be invisible.  It's about all of us recognizing that, but for some good fortune, any one of us could be in poverty; and "WE CARE" that everyone has their basic human rights met . . . food/water, shelter, access to education, basic health care, and proper sanitation.


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October 8, 2011

The Tent Flap Closes (End Phase I - October 8, 2011)

Over the last few months . . . That Poverty Guy (Sean Krausert) lost
17 lbs, got a little more grey hair, and cultivated quite a beard.

Last night was like Christmas Eve and I was 8 years old!  I slept alright until about 3 AM, and then my ol' nemesis woke me up (my bladder).  After a quick trip to the washroom through -2C weather, and over a little ice where the rain had frozen, I was unable to sleep another wink.  I was so excited about being done sleeping outsider.  At 6:03 AM I left the tent to end Phase I of That Poverty Project.

I finished this phase of the project weighing 216 lbs, down 17 lbs from my starting weight of 233 lbs.  I will try to maintain my weight prior to starting Phase II - Struggles of the Working Poor on November 1st.  I'm not sure what to expect weight-wise in the next phase as I will likely not have an abundance of food BUT the food I will be able to afford might be high in fat content or otherwise lacking nutritional value. 

I ended the homelessness phase with the same amount of money with which I started.  Nothing.  I actually had $10 in my pocket yesterday, but then a door to door charitable appeal going down my street became the beneficiary of it.  During the second phase, I will be tracking every penny to the penny as money comes much more into focus for that phase.

This morning was a strange feeling.  First of all, being "allowed" to be indoors as much and whenever I like made me think of a prison door opening. (see And Now For Something Completely Different)  Then, it was awesome doing a little bit of grooming - cutting nails, shaving my neck (I'm keeping my beard through Phase II since I won't be able to afford razors, and I don't want to grow the beard all over again), and having a glorious shower.  Finally, I experienced feeling a little bit overwhelmed deciding what I was to wear . . . so many choices about things I haven't had to deal with since July.

Stay tuned for video footage of burning my underwear and socks . . . all of which is no longer suitable for usage (or likely safe for humans to be around).  Seriously . . . I'm doing it.

Actually, it's not really the end of Phase I . . . and it's also sort of the start of Phase II.  This time of transition is important as further reflections from Phase I will emerge as I reintegrate back into the house.  Similarly, as I prepare for Phase II . . . anxiety, nerves and uncertainty about what is to come will also start to rise to the surface.

What should readers expect over the next 3+ weeks?  That Poverty Guy will still have a daily presence on Facebook and Twitter, but blogs will be fewer . . . perhaps 2 - 3 per week.  I am taking the time to prepare for the next phase and do some reflecting on what has been.  Then, as of November 1st the blogs will pick up again to their normal regularity.

As for right now . . . I'm celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, and we have learned that we have more to be thankful for than we thought a few months ago.  And, given that I do feel somewhat exhausted, I'm going to take a little time to . . .



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October 7, 2011

Awakening (Day 77 - October 7, 2011)

All day today I've been thinking about waking up tomorrow.  As of 6 AM Saturday October 8th, my time in the tent is over!  I've been fantasizing about . . . the glorious shower I am going to have . . . putting on fresh clothes washed in soap (perhaps something a little colourful) . . . taking a moment to savour fresh undies and socks . . . trimming my beard (I've decided to keep the beard rather than grow it again when I can't afford razors in Phase II) . . . putting on a different pair of shoes . . . driving my car . . . and, of course, sleeping indoors in my own bed with my wife again.   Phase I of That Poverty Project will be in the books as I look ahead to starting Phase II - Struggles of the Working Poor on November 1st.  It truly will be a Thanksgiving to celebrate in my household, and I suspect that there will be things I become thankful for when I fully realize everything I've previously taken for granted.



I've also been thinking about our leaders waking up.  No, not like that! (Hmmm . . . although maybe some do need a good ol' awakening.)  I mean that I was wondering what it would be like if upon waking up each morning our government officials and leaders had a brand spanking new daily checklist to review.  In my mind, EVERY SINGLE DAY our elected representatives and bureaucrats should turn their minds to the following:


Can you imagine if that happened?  If we decided that it was unacceptable for anyone to go without their basic rights being met.  There will be cynics (they call themselves "realists") who will say that this will never happen.  But really . . . why couldn't it happen?



And then my mind turns to the awakening of the whole world to a new way of thinking.  A way of thinking that embraces compassion and the well being of all ahead of greed and selfishness.  This then brought to mind the following excerpt from my book . . .

"When we awaken and no longer see things as we have always seen them, we are able to see things for what they really are – part of a whole – just WE.  

We must develop and exercise attitudes that reflect the type of world in which we want to live.  For example, even in the face of scarcity, we can develop attitudes of abundance.  An attitude of abundance is based upon compassion, encourages sharing and generosity, and overcomes scarcity.   We can be certain that nothing will change if our attitude does not take the lead.

I am.  You are as I am.
WE are ONE on this Earth.
The Earth is but a room without walls.
Are WE awakening to this reality?

 WE are smart enough and rich enough to
address all issues confronting OUR world. 
The question is . . . do WE care enough?"



If I'm super duper excited about waking up tomorrow, I'm going to be freakin' beside myself the day that I wake up and realize that the entire world has awakened to its true potential.  And, believe me, it can . . . and must . . . happen.


Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU

From Chaplin to Sesame Street

The ideas expressed in That Poverty Project or elsewhere with respect to poverty alleviation are not necessarily new.  In some cases they have been around for millennia.  And in other cases they simply speak truths that come from deep within us and are naturally part of the human condition.  The problem is not coming up with the ideas, but rather sharing them on a large enough scale to change our consciousness or remind us of better ways.

It is for this reason, I am thrilled when popular media is used to express ideas about compassion and caring for others.  Below are a couple of examples that came across my path this week.  The first takes us back to a speech given by Charlie Chaplin's character in The Great Dictator; a speech that could easily be given today.  And the second comes from Sesame Street, a fabulous influence to our children (if only the lessons they learn can just survive when they become adults!).


Charlie Chaplin's final speech in The Great Dictator


Sesame Street: Growing Hope Against Hunger

 


Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU

October 6, 2011

Pictures Say A Thousand Words (Day 76 - October 6, 2011)

"TENT SWEET TENT"Photo Credit - Drew Hoshkiw, Rocky Mountain Outlook
"It`s Day One . . .
I have no idea what to
expect!"
If you need a context for why That Poverty Project is being done,
you can check out the following blog that contains statistics as well as
a video journal entry by That Poverty Guy (Sean Krausert) -
"I Believe . . . "
  

COCOONING! Hoodie on, wrapped in blankets, and sleeping bag.  Coldest temperature -4C (24.8F).

That Poverty Guy walking around downtown Canmore.
Photo Credit - Hamish MacLean, Canmore Leader

"Dirty laundry . . . AGAIN!"
(getting sick of these clothes)

Check out . . . Stone-Washed Jeans

Blog Entry from Day 3 about
That Poverty Guy`s sad 1st effort
hand washing his clothes.
Ye Olde Laundry Stone & Basin
  
That Poverty Guy cooling his tootsies on a hot summer day. 


That Poverty Guy "reflecting" on bottle picking.

For the full story on the day . . . Cotton Pickin' Bottle Pickin'!!


Most money was spent on trying to be
"Clucking Normal"
The bottle picking haul netted $7.30 . . . for 4 hours work!

The MANY faces of That Poverty Guy . . .

And, the MANY faces of poverty . . . Really . . . What Does IT Look Like?


"The Office"
A rickety old lawn chair and a 70`s style TV tray.

  
Being outside so much is absolutely draining . . . and the blog from this particular day was entitled Never Again. 


Twice per week That Poverty Guy washed his clothes . . . once per each of his two sets of clothing.
  

Caught With My Pants Down . . . Literally!
An encounter with the cops.


Fresh snow in the mountains . . . winter is not too far away.

A sprained ankle . . .
. . . and bit by a dog . . .
 . . . ON THE SAME DAY!


Dr. Thad Pavarti Guy
World Renowned Expert on Linguistic Anomalies & Other Strange Things
AND
Discoverer of . . .
THE WISDOM OF THE LITTLEST PIG
(Most Viewed Blog!)


Peace DUDE!  Just trying to keep warm after a chilly night.

  
Sean Krausert (a.k.a. That Poverty Guy) - Before and Right Near the End of Phase I of That Poverty Project


Now . . . take a look around. 

What needs in the world catch your eye
and speak to your heart?

What can you do to help?



Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.



Pearls

With World Homeless Day approaching on October 10th, here is another short video that helps us break the harmful stereotypes with respect to the street homeless. 

This video by Jason van Genderen takes us to Sydney, Australia and is filmed entirely on a smart phone.  Best of all, it is directly from the mouths of the people living on the streets.



Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

October 5, 2011

Caught Between Two Extremes (Day 75 - October 5, 2011)


Front cover of The National Post, May 8, 2000
In early May 2000, I was in war torn Sierra Leone, West Africa.  I was on a reconnaissance mission as part of preparation to launch a program I created called Peace Theatre, which was designed to teach conflict resolution skills to former child soldiers being re-integrated back into the community.  It was a trip that changed the course of my life, and I experienced feelings that have not since been replicated . . . until now.

Through the 1990's Sierra Leone suffered a decade long terrible internal conflict as a result of rebels intent on causing and maintaining mayhem.  Ostensibly, the rebels claimed they wanted to take over the country, but their actions spoke differently.  They actually wanted to control the diamond mining operations, and in order to do so they needed the general population to be too terrified and too weak to do anything about it.  Accordingly, they levelled villages, maliciously enlisted children into their "army" by force, and committed atrocities against the population that included rape, murder, and vicious amputations of legs, arms, and, strangely enough, ears.  It was as if someone had taken a giant stick and stirred up the whole country - displacing millions, wreaking havoc with infrastructure (roads, schools, water wells, and homes were destroyed), and killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people.  As a result, by the time of my visit, Sierra Leone had dropped to last place on the Human Development Index, i.e. the poorest and worst place to live in the world.

Near the end of the 90's the international community was finally able to contain the rebels and Sierra Leone, although devastated, was on the road to peace.  When I arrived in the country at the beginning of May 2000, the rebels were still active in the north of the country but West African peacekeeping forces were protecting the rest of the country.  However, on Wednesday May 3rd the UN peacekeeping forces replaced their West African counterparts.  Unfortunately, the UN mandate was not nearly as aggressive as the West African mandate, and the rebel forces in the north had no respect for, nor fear of, the UN forces.  When asked what he thought of the UN forces, rebel leader Foday Sankoh stated, "An impotent man cannot impregnate a woman."  Accordingly, on Thursday May 4th, the rebels started advancing rapidly towards the capital city of Freetown.

I have never known fear like I did in the middle of the night on that Thursday and Friday.  Having been every day to the Displaced Persons and Amputees Camp in Freetown, I saw first hand the result of the rebels' brutality.  Further, we had no idea where the rebels were.  Unlike Canada, where I expect that we would have a thousand ways of knowing exactly where the enemy lay should such arise, it felt as if we were blind while we awaited the hourly BBC radio report.  The rebels could be one kilometre away or 100, we just had no way of knowing.  So those nights I lay in bed jumping at every sound, while fearing not death but rather having my arms amputated and never being able to hug my family again.

On the Saturday, we received word that the rebels were on the outskirts of Freetown, and arrangements were being made for as many Ex-Pats as possible to leave the city (i.e. expatriates - people from outside the country).  Two large UN helicopters, one of them being in the photo above, were shuttling people from Freetown north to Conakry, Guinea.  My travel companion and I were whisked by local national staff to the tarmac to await the shuttle.  Unfortunately for us the policy was "women and children first", which I wholeheartedly agree with except that it separated some families and, being a man, was not thrilled at the prospect of still being in the city when the rebels arrived.  Thankfully, my colleague and I were eventually selected for the last shuttle of the day and they crammed 26 of us into the 20 passenger helicopter along with a whack of stuff (including boxes of medical supplies that were being removed so as to not fall into rebel hands).  (SEE ABOVE PHOTO)  Just before take off, which was a difficult thing given how heavy laden we were, I glanced out the window feeling incredible joy that I was in one piece and would soon be reunited with my family . . . and then I saw Theresa.

Theresa is a Sierra Leonean nurse who at the time was overseeing a health project for CAUSE Canada, the organization with which I was also working.  In the previous decade, Theresa had fled barefoot through the jungle fleeing rebels and ultimately ended up in a refugee camp in Guinea before being repatriated to Sierra Leone.  She had also previously witnessed the gruesome sacking of Freetown by rebels in which the rebel motto was "Leave no living thing."  Theresa is a true survivor and one of the strongest people I have ever met.  At the moment I saw her standing on the tarmac, Theresa had a huge smile on her face because she was so happy her Canadian friends were getting out safely.  And, within my incredible joy I felt absolutely devastated.

While deliriously happy on one hand, full of relief and the joy I described above, I knew that Theresa and my other Sierra Leone friends would have to endure whatever was to come.  Thus, I simultaneously felt a great heaviness and pain in my heart unlike anything I had felt before or since.  Well, until this week, that is.  This week is the closest I have felt to that same emotional tug of war between two opposite extremes.  Part of me wants to do the "happy dance" knowing that this project phase in the tent, which has been difficult for me at times, is about to end.  At the same time, I know that the millions and millions of people who are really homeless will not be gettin a home this weekend.  This contrast leaves me feeling relieved and at the same time raw . . . happy yet horrified. 

I pray for an end to poverty and homelessness similar to what ultimately happened in Sierra Leone.  Freetown was spared because the British brought in a destroyer and a contingent of highly trained marines that stopped the rebels in their tracks.  That marked the beginning of the end for the rebel forces, and a fresh start for the Sierra Leone people.  My understanding is that the country today, while still relatively poor, is recovering nicely . . . new roads, new wells, new schools and a resilient people determined to overcome the challenge in front of them.

Likewise, I pray that WE can stop poverty in its tracks.  Like the British facing the rebels in Sierra Leone, WE have the resources and ability to push back against poverty until it is no more.  WE can ensure that everyone has their human rights protected in having access to food/water, shelter, education, access to health care, and freedom from fear.  WE just have to make it a priority and decide to do it . . . each of us doing a little bit more and all of us telling our leaders that WE care.


(By the way, I did return to Sierra Leone a few months later and implemented Peace Theatre with former child soldiers.  I also returned three more times to Sierra Leone, and subsequently had the honour of being part of  designing an education focused child sponsorship program called CAUSE Kids in 2005/2006 that now benefits over 4,500 kids thanks to the incredible people implementing it - www.causekids.ca.  This is mentioned not to brag but rather to demonstrate that I and many others never gave up on Sierra Leone; and WE shall not give up on poverty and homelessness either.)



Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.

The Story of Human Rights

Not too long ago I was engaged in an interesting exchange of ideas via Twitter (The Battle of the Tweet).  During the back and forth, the issue of rights came up.  My adversary claimed that food & water, shelter, education, health care, and freedom from fear were human needs, not rights.  Well, he was partly correct, they are needs . . . but they're also rights as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The following fascinating video was created by HumanRights.com as part of a current campaign to help us be more aware of what are widely recognized (but perhaps not widely enough) as our human rights.  Remember . . . the only way we can truly protect our human rights is to protect the rights of others.


Find Out More . . . www.humanrights.com


So . . . what are the 30 human rights?  Here's a summary . . .

1. We are all born free and equal;   2. Don't discriminate;   3. The right to life;   4. No slavery;  
5. No torture;   6. You have rights no matter where you go;   7. We're all equal before the law:
8. Your human rights are protected by law;   9. No unfair detainment;   10. The right to trial;
11. We're always innocent till proven guilty;   12. The right to privacy;  13. The freedom to move;
14. The right to asylum;   15. Right to a nationality;   16.  Marriage and family;  17. The right to ownership;  18. Freedom of thought;   19. Freedom of expression;  20. The right to public assembly;  
21. The right to democracy;   22. Social security;  23. Workers’ rights;  24. The right to play;  
25. Food and shelter for all;   26. The right to education; 27. Copyright;   28. A fair and free world;  
29. Responsibility; and  30. No one can take away your human rights.





Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

October 4, 2011

ZOMAGOODNESS . . . How Old is She?!? (Day 74 - October 4, 2011)

You know what? 

I think that anyone whose heart is beating should see this video (below). As at the time of publishing this blog, it has been seen 6,167,669 times . . . which means that of the billion people on the internet 993,832,331 still need to see it. And . . . each of us have to find 6 other people, who are not on the internet, and show it to them (hmmm . . . that may involve a little bit of travelling for most of us). Come on people, we have work to do!!

I could sit here and talk (well, type) until I'm blue in the face . . . telling you how it was nice in the tent last night and only got down to 4C (39F) OR how with only 4 nights left in this phase of the project I can't wait until I'm in a real bed again (. . . and sleeping inside . . . and wearing different clothes . . . ) OR statistics on this aspect of poverty and reflections on homelessness . . . but I'm not.  Compared to what this girl says in the following video, anything I could say today is simply "blah, blah, blah."

Of course, I'm kidding about having to find every single person on Earth and show them this video (well, sort of kidding) . . . but I am serious that it is a MUST SEE. And again, and again, and again until her message sinks very deeply into our consciousness.  Yes, I found it that good.


I know, right?!?



Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

Click Here to See WACHOOKANDU.