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Five Steps to Navigate a Summer of Crises

WRITTEN BY ERYN AUSTIN BERGEN
(Eryn is a creative copywriter at FH Canada who enjoys reading and writing about global development issues. The opinions in this article are her own.)

This summer has been one overwhelming crisis after another. In the midst of images of exploding buildings in Gaza, ominous black flags flying in Iraq, and bleeding Ebola patients dying in Liberia, it's hard to back up and see the big picture. Feelings of despair, anger, helplessness and flat out denial keep us in a constant state of emotional confusion and distress. 

To add to the formal media onslaught, well-meaning social media activists jump into the fray with hashtags to follow and causes to give to. And while participating in these might assuage our guilt over living in a peaceful democratic society for a time, it also exhausts our capacity for empathy. 

How can we possibly care about everything all the time? And just when we decide which cause to champion, someone writes an article on why the ALS ice-bucket challenge is bad. Ahh! How do I live a faithful Christian witness in the midst of so many crises, needs, and opinions?

Student in Kayanza, Burundi
1. Take a Deep Breath.
Turn off the TV, mute the radio, close Facebook, Twitter, and your news feeds for five minutes. Breathe in - breathe out. Stop panicking.

2. Get Perspective.
The world is not, as the media would have us believe, an endless cycle of loss, destruction, and hopelessness. In the midst of bombs going off in Gaza, a woman in Haiti softly sings her healthy baby to sleep, a man in Ethiopia joyfully weeds his flourishing garden, and a little boy in Burundi giggles in the classroom of his new school. The world is not going to hell in a hand-basket - good changes are happening all over the globe. (They just don't make for the sexiest headlines.)

3. Pray.
Jesus is not surprised by what is going on in the world; he is walking the bombed out streets of Gaza and holding the children stricken with Ebola. Jesus cares what happens to his world, and he has called his church to pray. 

4. Focus on Preventing Crises Before They Happen.
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received was from a college friend majoring in accounting. When I was stressing over how to meet competing deadlines, Jess turned to me and said, "Put the important before the urgent." It sounds crazy, doesn't it? I mean, if something is urgent then, by its very nature, it needs to be attended to now, right? Every headline this summer screams "urgent crisis!", causing us to feel that the world cannot wait another second and we must drop every other important endeavour in order to focus on the crisis.

But what if we backed up a little? What if we continued to faithfully care for the "important" while responding to crises? Take water, for example.

5. Choose to Make a Tangible Impact.
Collecting water in Sasiga, Ethiopia

Water has an under-appreciated trickle-down effect. Access to clean water sources is fundamental to sanitation which, in turn, is necessary for basic health care. Good sanitation prevents diarrhoeal illnesses which kill around 500,000 children every year.

Water also impacts education. Every day, girls spend, collectively, millions of hours fetching water for their households. Bringing a water source directly into a village frees girls to get back in the classroom.

Education, in turn, raises the average age a girl gets married, reduces her chances of suffering domestic violence and poverty, increases her influence over household spending, and empowers her to take control of her own health (The World Bank). In addition, access to secure water sources reduces the risk of violent assaults on women.

From an agricultural angle, sufficient water supplies for irrigation enable drought-stricken fields to reach a successful harvest, reducing malnutrition and preventing starvation. 

Lack of sanitation results in cholera outbreaks (like what we're seeing in Ghana) and contributes to the spread of infectious diseases. 

Lack of education contributes to an environment where fear, xenophobia, and religious fanaticism become the breeding ground for discrimination and war. 

Lack of sufficient food resources leads to land conflicts and unnecessary child fatalities. 

All this because of a lack of clean, accessible, sufficient water. 

Have I overstated my case? Maybe. But let's not wait for another crisis to happen before we act to change the future of the world. Let's start putting the important before the urgent.


*          *          *
To find out how you can help prevent crises before they begin, visit FH Canada to learn more about long-term, sustainable community development.

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Food for the Hungry: Five Steps to Navigate a Summer of Crises
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