Jacoby Poulain: Small efforts make big difference

By Jacoby Poulain

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A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, "Little girl, why are you doing this? The job is too great. Look at them all. You can't possibly make a difference."

The girl stood up, saddened. After a few moments, however, she bent back down, picked up another starfish and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied: "Well I made a difference to that one."

The old man looked at the young girl inquisitively, smiled and nodded in agreement. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined and all the starfish were saved.

In life, it's tempting to throw our hands up when the problem seems overwhelming and our ability to do anything about it limited. In such instances, the above story the Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley spurs us on, as does the similar story below.

In 1947 on a trip to China, a man named Pierce met a teacher who presented him with a child she was unable to care for herself. The woman asked Pierce if he could do anything to help the child. Pierce gave the woman his last five dollars and agreed to send the same amount each month to help the woman care for the child.

While in China, Pierce saw further widespread hunger and felt compassion for others also. He dragged a camera across Asia, showing the resulting pictures to audiences in North America. He asked his audience to "adopt" a child and help them financially. In 1950, Pierce incorporated this personal crusade as World Vision - an organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.

World Vision has grown into one of the largest relief and development organisations in the world with revenue of $2.79 billion and 40,000 employees working in partnership with nearly 100 countries. To date, New Zealanders sponsor a heart warming figure of about 66,000 children through World Vision. To put this into relative perspective, this equates to a city full of children just larger than the population of Napier and just smaller than the population of Hastings district. What world impact if all countries sponsored similarly?

The 40 Hour Famine weekend is June 7-9. This is a tradition where thousands of Kiwis raise money for children living in hunger through a 40-hour challenge. Last year, 128,000 Kiwis participated, raising $2.3 million.

Proceeds this year will go to Papua New Guinea where hunger leads to anaemic mums, malnourished children and the second worst child death rate in the Asia-Pacific region. A quarter of all children under the age of 5 years are suffering from diarrhoea, which is a life-threatening illness. Access to good health services, clean water and proper sanitation therefore is critical.

By each supporting a participant during the 40-hour famine challenge, or sponsoring a child through World Vision, we can make a huge difference.

Like the starfish story, together we can provide a tangible solution to a problem that could otherwise feel overwhelming.

I admire the legacy of World Vision and encourage all to be involved. World Vision started with one person. One person can make an enormous difference.

Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere Ward councillor.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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