My daughter lives in Africa.
She is 21 years old, a graduate of Milton High School, Pensacola State College and Florida State University.
She is a member of the Peace Corps.
She has no running water at her house.
She sleeps under a mosquito net over her bed.
There are large spiders in her attic.
Her bathroom is a hole in the ground, where she also showers by dumping water over her head from a bucket.
She’s one of the fortunate ones, her hole in the ground is INSIDE her house.
She goes to the market daily to purchase raw fruits and vegetables, she avoids the fish because she got food poisoning a few months ago from eating it.
Her title is Youth Development Coordinator.
She has pretty much been sick from one thing or another since she got there last September, but that’s okay cuz the Peace Corps told her and the others that might happen.
Many of the people who arrived with her have gone home already, choosing not to remain and complete their service.
Each one of my grown children have taught me much about life. Charla’s contribution has not been something an average mother would expect to learn.
Let me set a foundation before I continue:
I, as a human being, have always helped others when I could. I felt my contributions were fairly small, but I know the things I’ve done have made a difference to individuals in hard times.
I have reached out with larger attempts to make a difference, but rarely got results.
In 1994, there was a story about Haiti and children dying from dehydration in the hospitals there because clean water was not available. I was 34 at the time and raising four kids. I thought of my water faucets and how I had at my fingertips a lifesaving elixir that I had never, ever considered a luxury. I reached out and called the doctor in Haiti who was interviewed in the article. I also poke to a nun who was working over there to bring education to Haitian orphans. Mind you, this was before the Earthquake in January, 2010 that devastated the country even further.
My point is, I was aware, on a limited basis, of human international suffering and death.
Back then, it just wasn’t cool to really do anything about it.
You didn’t see the likes of George Clooney or Sean Penn reaching out to save lives in other countries, though I feel certain there were famous activists at the time.
Before Charla left for Africa, several months before, Egyptian rulers who had stolen millions from their country for over 30 years, were toppled by a revolution of the people that started on Facebook, among the young citizens there. I rejoiced with Charla, we watched live TV and saw the celebrations in the streets when the protestors won their efforts and began to bring democracy to Egypt.
Other youth revolutionists around the world began doing the same thing and before we knew it, Libya was free of Gaddafi.
It’s no wonder al-Assad is killing everyone in Syria. The writing is on the wall, he’s on his way out and he’s taking everyone he can with him.
Okay, Santa Rosa County, Florida…WHY DO I CARE?
Why did I post the horrible video that is just before this column? Why would I put such a terrible, terrible image of little dead children blown up by al-Assad and his “soliders”?
Because at the deepest core of humanity and who am I as mother and a living, breathing individual of this Earth…those are my children. Those are your children. The people of Syria are being blown to pieces, innocently, unarmed, in their own homes and neighborhoods. Government snipers are shooting children who are walking to the grocery store. Journalists have been blown up while covering this story. International media and humanitarian efforts are being blocked by al-Assad and the news and images coming from Syria are few.
Someone had camera in Syria and documented the bodies of beautiful little children soaked in blood: one with brain matter showing through the top of a tiny skull, limp bodies of babies laid out together on a blanket….34 children were murdered there yesterday, according to CNN reports, 94 people in all slaughtered there Saturday while I sat in my air conditioned living room and watched Law and Order.
I have always cared. I cared before any of my own children were even conceived.
But my daughter Charla is responsible for intensifying my personal sense of outrage and for bringing the people of Syria -and the world – into my heart.
Before Charla graduated FSU, she had already amassed a collection of friends and acquaintances from all over the world. It was common for me to hear about a friend she’d made in Syria, a year or two before the true violence began there. She has friends from many other countries, one she’s known since she was in high school. Together, she and I reached out over the internet to help teach people in other countries to speak English. She practiced her French at the same time she helped others, and the two of us, along with Rayna, (my now-nine year old) befriended Jesus Melendez Manzano, a young man in Venezuela who needed to better his English in order to immigrate to Canada and be with his wife. He accomplished that and he is living there now, free and soaking up democracy. He is on my facebook, where he has been for more than two years. I learned about the struggles of his country from him firsthand in an open dialogue on Skype and in emails.
When Charla was attending FSU, she had the opportunity to study and live abroad, for four months, in London. While she was there, she traveled to 8 other countries. She stood in the gas chambers at Auschwitz where thousands of Jews were killed. Let me say that again…at 19 years old, she stood inside a concentration camp in Poland. Over one million people died in Auschwitz in a four-year period, according to historians. I learned about the Holocaust in a classroom in 7th grade. She flew there and allowed herself to be touched by a million lost souls.
When the internet first came out, we all struggled to get online through AOL and dial-up connections. Chat rooms and email struggles were prominent. We had no idea the impact the internet was going to have on our lives in every possible way. I never imagined a dictator could be taken down through a social media network.
Charla is so passionate about knowing the world and experiencing it firsthand, she moved to Africa and will be gone until next year. I can’t help but be touched by a young woman with so much conviction and strength. She brings the world to my life, up close and personal. She has shown me through her actions and choices how small our world is.
I second-guessed myself several times last night after posting the video. For most people, Facebook is a place to share happy photos of their children playing and growing and having birthday parties. It is those things for me too. But it is fast becoming my own medium to talk about the things that touch my life daily: the pain and the struggles and the laughter.
I predict the people slaughtered in Syria, even these precious children, did not die in vain. Thanks to video and youtube and even Facebook, the attacks on innocent people in Syria is coming to life for everyone. Look at that video and be outraged. Write to someone in charge and make sure they hear you. I know politics and policy and United Nations determinations have already postponed help going to Syria.
I don’t want to see us in another war, personally.
I also didn’t want to see that video.