Canada. A country of opportunities. A land of peace built by immigrants, cultivated by decades of multiculturalism.
Like most immigrant parents, my parents came here poor. We came as refugees from the civil war that was taking place back in Sri Lanka. My dad used to work day and night. My mom attended school because she wanted to get a good job to help my dad out in the long run. They faced hardships – racism, underpay and especially fatigue from countless hours of work.
I was three years old when I first moved here. I don't remember being with my father until I moved to Canada. He was already here before we landed. My dad was very ambitious. He wanted to get us out of poverty. I barely spent time with him as he would always jump from one job to another. My mother had a hard time adjusting to Western culture, so she never understood the problems we faced whether at school or on the streets.
I was lost through most of my childhood. I did not have the guidance I needed. So every decision I made was an experience that taught me right from wrong. I made a lot of friends. I lost a lot of friends. I fell in love many times and had my heart broken many times. I have been discriminated against and I have made memories that will last forever.
Now when I look back at everything I have been through, I realize one thing. I am alive.
I am grateful for everything I have been through, and I am grateful for everything my parents did for me. How many of us aren't? Sure sometimes (or most of the time) we don't have the level of communication that we want with our parents. But we cannot blame them for that. To be frank, we have to be understanding. They went through hardships and that crafted them and changed them to be tougher and stronger. We have not experienced what they have. We did not feel what they felt. So how can we ask them to change when change is what they had to do to survive?
Instead of asking our parents to change, why don't we change the situation that caused our parents to change – poverty? Poverty in Sri Lanka has left many children on the streets scavenging for food, or should we say crumbs. We came here from Sri Lanka. We are the fortunate ones. But what about those who are not as fortunate? Our brothers and sisters we left over there are not guaranteed another meal while we are here taking our lives for granted.
How many times have you looked back at your country and asked yourself “what have I done to help?” While you eat, they starve. While you sleep, they search for food. While you party, they are fighting for their lives. You could have been one of them, but you are now blessed in the land of opportunities. Will you not go back and help the young children who need you?
In Montreal, a person earning minimum wage working 40 hours can still pay off rent, food and have enough to go out on weekends. What does that say? That means most of us who live with our parents and work 40 hours a week usually end up saving most of it. We live in a materialistic period where fame and fortune classify our status. We think of ourselves and our needs. Whether we are in the pursuit of fame or fortune, we fail to look back at the ones we left behind. Our land torn by war, our literature and legacies burnt down, and our people, our brothers and sisters, our children starving, suffering, fighting to live.
"I see humans, but I don't see any sign of humanity." -Jason Donohue
What if I told you for $20 you can buy change – change in the form of a future. $20 can get a child in Sri Lanka one semester of school. You are providing the child with education. You are providing the child with a future. Every dollar you spend here, has a lot more value in a child's life in Sri Lanka. I am not saying you should pour out all your earnings. But I am confident that you can help guarantee a child’s future.
What better feeling is there than knowing you saved a life? Sponsor a child, adopt a child or the next time you visit Sri Lanka bring some extra money and help institutions there improve their facilities. Yes, we lost our people in the war and we lost our people to the tsunami. But let us make a change to not lose any more of our people than we already have. Our children need us.
Every child deserves to have a future. As Tamils, we have to look out for one another. These children who would call you "anna" or "akka" deserve guidance, a guardian, a champion, they deserve to know that they are not forgotten, that we will come back for them. Just as our parents are our heroes, they need heroes too. Be that hero. Give these children the future they deserve. As humans we all have the potential to achieve great things. Make this one of them.
"Every child deserves a champion- an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be." -Rita Pierson