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viewpoint

Tackling the ‘globalization of indifference’

| Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I have grown up in country where I get to wake up to the view of the majestic San Salvador volcano, but one where the norm is to eat my cereal next to a “Massacre of Five” newspaper headline; where it’s too risky to sit in a car without windows up and locked. Salvadorans — including me — have become immune to shocking news of violence, undeniable acts of corruption and eye-opening cases of poverty, because these and other injustices have become part of our daily lives. However, this unfortunate reality does not make the issues any less relevant, and the first step all Salvadorans, in this case, need to take is to rid the blinding glasses of indifference toward such toxic issues that prevent my beautiful home country of El Salvador from flourishing, as I know it can.

One of the possible culprits of the abundance of apathy in El Salvador is that most Salvadorans are convinced they lack opportunities to make something of their future. I know this misconception is true for a large part of the population who consider education a waste of time since they believe their future is doomed with poverty and unscrupulous politicians, but what these people do not realize is that their future is only ill-fated if they let it remain so. “If only I lived in a bigger country, then I would do big things,” I, too, used to think. Consequently, I felt no pressure to help: The country was beyond repair, I thought, and what could a 10 year old do to change this anyways? A quarter from my allowance was definitely not bound to change someone’s life, right? Wrong. After becoming attentive of the poor surroundings I drove by daily, I can safely say a quarter — a dime even — can mean for some families the privilege of each eating a full tortilla for the day rather than a half, and perhaps even some “casamiento” for the children! Or to someone struggling with gangs in their community, even a hug can make a difference.

A large part of reaching this goal is creating awareness about the simple ways people — who like the former me have decided there is nothing else to do — can help to attain a better El Salvador. As an initial effort, I imitated the example of Brandon Stanton, creator of a widely known photo blog named “Humans of New York.” Using social media, I created a local Instagram page and a webpage supposed to model Stanton’s, in which I took a picture of people I met, posted it and added an interesting part of my conversation with them worth sharing or that reflects part of who they are. Now with the privilege of receiving higher education, my goal is to use the resources I gather here at Notre Dame and help El Salvador be not only stunning for its landscapes but for its prosperity as well.

My experience in El Salvador is only the first-hand example I have had of the big problem: “the globalization of indifference,” as Pope Francis called it in one of his recent messages to the world. Basically, he called upon not only Christians, but the whole world to pay attention to their surroundings and take a minute to care. I aim to encourage all those people with a myriad of gifts to offer — whether tangible or not — to help with what they can, because even a washed T-shirt for one could mean shelter for another; a two-second smile could become someone’s highlight of the day. With small acts like these, our communities and our world are sure to undergo big improvements.

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