Many shocking pictures full of atrocities against mankind and animals filter into our consciousness every day through the media or Internet. I sometimes wonder if many of us become desensitized after awhile, as one is prone to do, when the bombardment of images, however reprehensible they may be, tend to become. Yet, all one needs to do is to take one look – just one single look – at this photo and I wager that even the hardest of hearts would crumble and weep at the mere sight.
I came across this photograph a few days ago while surfing the Internet. This haunting photo of a famine stricken child was the 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning photo that depicted the Sudan famine in all of its rawness and horror. It was taken by freelance photographer Kevin Carter (1961-1994), who dedicated his career to covering ongoing conflict in his native South Africa. This child was struggling to crawl towards an U.N. food camp located a kilometer away. Whether she made it or not, no one ever knew as the photographer left as soon as the photo was taken. The image of the vulture waiting for the child to die against her visible struggle, pain and unbearable weakness electrocuted my senses. I read somewhere that the photographer did not come to her aid. This is unsettling, yet I don't know if the child was alone or with a group walking towards the camp therefore I feel I cannot comment. The only thing I do know is that the photographer committed suicide three months later due to depression. This is not hard to imagine. For me, this photo that I was unfamiliar with, automatically shifted something within me. And I am numb and left to ask once again: How can this be?
Now, I am not unfamiliar with the atrocities made against mankind or the famine that is common in many countries around the world. I do not live in an ignorant bubble nor bury my head in the ground when something unnerving to my senses happens to jolt. But, like many, I believe a part of me had become used to the abundance of images given us daily to waken our sense of compassion, to educate us, and to jolt us into action. Yes, each image leaves a mark and makes us question and douses our hearts with more knowledge and compassion, but none like that initial shock that we first experienced. This picture brought it all back to me to that first time – that first time when I lived naively in a world where I thought looking after your fellow human being reigned; that first time when I was young in age and did not yet fully comprehend the evil that existed in this world; that first time when the hideousness of this world raped my soul leaving it traumatized forever more.
I saw this photo two days ago. Since then, I have not been able to erase the image from my mind during day nor night. It is not because I have seen pictures of starving children before and not been affected by them. No. They've made an impression as well. But this picture with the vulture waiting for its meal, is beyond horrific. This absolutely, positively, rawly and powerfully jolts. And if you were to ask me if I would want to erase this image from my mind, my answer would simply be No. Because this is our world's reality in all of its ugliness and heartlessness. Perhaps I am not smart enough to understand certain things, this being one of them. How is it that in this world that produces enough food to feed its entire planet finds itself in this situation? Yes, politics, I understand. Well, politics be damned. How can people in charge of that nation allow this to happen? I am betting they were all very well fed and quite satiably rotund while the rest of their people withered away in starvation. I can't fathom this folks, never have, never will. I see this photo and want to scream but instead are left speechless and numb. It is a sad fact of life; it is a sad look into the capability of our inhumanity.
And so I am therefore left to question my ability to effect a change realizing that I am a mere speck in something so much bigger than myself. And how can I begin doing that? Well simply by staying aware of the world's problems and not developing a blind spot nor a desensitized heart and by helping in any way I can.
There are a number of sites on the Internet where one can help just by mere clicks. Two sites I often frequent are The Hunger Site whose focus is to eradicate world hunger. Founded in 1999, it is an established leader in online activism. Over 200,000 people visit the site each day and if you click on the yellow “Click Here to Give – It’s Free” button, each click donates 1.1 cups of food to the hungry. You can also shop for clothing, jewelry, gifts, etc., where items bought helps fund food for the hungry. Another site for those who like word games is Free Rice. For every definition of a word given that you answer correctly, a donation of 20 grains of rice is given. Now, 20 grains of rice does not seem like much until you begin to play the game and find that very quickly many bowls of rice have been donated. This is an addictive game that not only serves to support a great need, but also improves one's vocabulary.
And how can we effect a change? Next time you see an infomercial on the struggles and plight of starving children and people or receive a solicitation of help in the mail, do not change the channel nor discard. Instead, make a donation, however small it might be. Next time you go grocery shopping, shop with awareness and try not to overbuy so as not to end up wasting and throwing food away. After years of being one that let much food go to waste because of time restraints or sheer laziness, I stopped this bad habit long ago. For me, this was a choice based on many different issues, not just world hunger - the environment and the amount of animals slaughtered to feed not a hungry nation, but a gluttonous nation, were main factors as well.
But each of us, however small and insignificant we may feel in the face of these overwhelming issues, can effect changes simply by living with awareness and also by informing and educating others on the contributions we can make to those in great need. We are blessed by virtue of geography and economic standing. We can help financially, whether in our own countries or in another part of the world; we can become conscious of food spending; and, we should always remember the blessings afforded us come with responsibility: to help those less fortunate than ourselves.