Friday, September 28, 2007

Economic development is the answer

I recently read a book that spurred me into action. It's called Enrique's Journey, and I've pasted in a synopsis below:

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Soon to be turned into an HBO dramatic series, Nazario's account of a 17-year-old boy's harrowing attempt to find his mother in America won two Pulitzer Prizes when it first came out in the Los Angeles Times. Greatly expanded with fresh research, the story also makes a gripping book, one that viscerally conveys the experience of illegal immigration from Central America. Enrique's mother, Lourdes, left him in Honduras when he was five years old because she could barely afford to feed him and his sister, much less send them to school. Her plan was to sneak into the United States for a few years, work hard, send and save money, then move back to Honduras to be with her children. But 12 years later, she was still living in the U.S. and wiring money home. That's when Enrique became one of the thousands of children and teens who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year. Riding on the tops of freight trains through Mexico, these young migrants are preyed upon by gangsters and corrupt government officials. Many of them are mutilated by the journey; some go crazy. The breadth and depth of Nazario's research into this phenomenon is astounding, and she has crafted her findings into a story that is at once moving and polemical. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb. 28) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

I live in Southern California, where approximately 80% of nannies and housekeepers are single mothers who had to leave their children behind in their home countries in order to support them. It's hard enough leaving your kids behind when you go to work -- can you imagine having to do it for years, never knowing for sure if you'll ever see them again? Worse yet, knowing that they might embark on dangerous journeys in order to try to find you?

That's why I support economic development. Hand-outs are simply not sustainable. There are ways that individuals like us can easily get involved -- organizations like Kiva make it simple for you to lend $25 to an entrepreneur in a developing region to help lift them out of poverty (and the default rate is miniscule -- these people really want to get out of poverty), so they don't have to illegally immigrate in the first place. It's startling to me that for the price of a t-shirt, I can really help someone change their life for the better.

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