Last week I wrote a brief post about feeling privileged to have been involve din the Justice Action day at one of our Hobart schools. I ran a few workshops during the day, one of which was called “The Banana Economy.” It is a fairy simple activity which I put together a few years ago – I assign each participant an identity, and give them their story. I.e. “Brian, you are an orphan, you rely on charity to eat and attend school.” Or “Mary you have HIV, you have three children (also HIV+), your husband died 2 years ago, and you have no employment or literacy skills.”
Each participant is then given an equal number of bananas (or rather an equal share in the communities wealth) and then based on the current division of wealth in rural Kenya I talk the participants through the redistribution of the bananas until the MP has 67 times the GDP of a “normal” Kenyan, the single HIV+ women are impoverished, and the orphans are beyond vulnerable.
At the conclusion of the “wealth distribution” I then explained to the participants that their identities were no fictional, but were actually the true identities of people I had known and worked with in rural Kenya between 2007-2011. In some cases I was able to show the participants photos of their new identities, and give them updates on the progress of their person.
This was the first time in approximately 6 years I had run this workshop, and sadly since the last time I presented on the topic a number of those represented from my rural village have passed away due to poverty, AIDS or in the case of one little girl, my inability to raise $13 per month for her medication which she required on an ongoing basis for an incurable condition (not HIV related).
Although heart breaking to consider the realities in Kenya, I was really proud of the way so many of the participants in the program were able to look at ways that humanitarian assistance can be provided in the face of the corruption that exists in Kenya and so many other parts of the developing world. Further to that, the compassion shown by the students was beautiful.
As always however, I am left wondering – how is it that young people who are so filled with love, empathy and compassion – not to mention intelligence and motivation be connected to a community of adults who elected Tony Abbott??
Let us hope that the young people I met at St Al’s are representative of the positive future our kids deserve!