AndersonGrowing up in a community of excess luxury and monetary comfort, the “real world” never seemed to be more than a fleeting thought in my mind. The reality of poverty-stricken countries, mass human destruction and corrupt governments in foreign countries did not appear in my life until high school.

While these affairs seem so far from our town of West Linn, the argument remains the same: We live in a world of devastation, and the only cure is the works manifested from human hope.

Last year, in a high school history class that was based on the current United Nations Millennium Development Goals, I had the opportunity to research the development of Rwanda, a small African country. Rwanda’s past is littered with murder, poverty and struggles unknown to modern life in the United States. After entering into an overthrow of the government, Rwanda faced one of the most deadly genocides the world has seen. More than 800,000 Rwandans were declared dead in a matter of 100 days.

As a 17-year-old dependent high school student, the hardest fact to take in was that nearly 100,000 of the survivors were between the ages of 14 and 21. They were left to fend for themselves and their siblings as their country spiraled into an economic and military wasteland.

This single research project turned into a personal movement. Inspired by and curious about the adversity other children face around the world, I craved knowledge of the world beyond the bubble of West Linn. I found a book centered on one young boy’s journey out of Sierra Leone after being recruited as a child soldier in the war. There, I found the answer I was looking for.

I wanted to know what made these kids run for days on end with no water or food, and what made them face bayonets and machetes with the confidence they would live to see the next village. The kids placed in such threatening circumstances have something that has been long forgotten in our culture as Americans: an undying sense of hope.

As a result of this cathartic research, my life was revolutionized. Truly fascinated by this beautiful mystery, I am equally perplexed as to why kids in West Linn lack this same sense of hope. While not everything is perfect in West Linn, we have yet to face mass murder and extreme poverty. It did not take me long to find the answer. I was not aware of this hope until I was exposed to the reality of our world. This is not true for every kid in West Linn High School.

Some students float through the halls not knowing about the death of culture and humanity happening beyond the coasts of the United States. We have become a blissfully ignorant community, forcing ourselves into the trap of hope lost.

It doesn’t take a mission trip to Africa or a donation of $1,000 to Indonesia to start a movement. A movement starts with a connection between cultures, which is rare to find in the world today. If thousands of children can find a way to live and begin to rebuild their lives after such devastation, there is no limit to what we as a community could do with this same sense of hope.

Keeley Anderson is a senior at West Linn High School who will be contributing a regular column to the Tidings. This is her first column.

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