IT IS unusual to see such a strong sense of social conscience in someone as young as Featherston School pupil Nina Gelashvili, who won a Rotary speech competition last week with her speech on poverty.
I would suggest it's good to see that kind of social conscience in Wairarapa, because at times it doesn't feel like it's there.
Nina clearly showed, through her words, that she had a perception of poverty.
She could see the difference between her life, and her advantages, and those who were struggling. She could appreciate how fortunate she was, how lucky she was, because she has watched her family members help others.
It is too easy to dismiss poverty as a malaise; a social disease caused by those who don't work hard enough, or skived off at school, or came from a bad side of town.
Most of us understand "poverty" in Third World countries where even the most intelligent and studious people in the world can still become refugees either because a despot decides to take over their community at the point of a gun, or some natural disaster uproots thousands.
When I worked in England, some of those who lived on the streets were people who had viable jobs on building sites, until the country hit a building crisis in the eighties.
I get the sense that Wairarapa suits those who work hard. In rural communities there is a greater feeling of I put in the work, I get this back. But I also think in communities like these, it is easy to view poverty with disdain.
To many of us, it seems like a simple formula, hard work and rewards, and having the drive to succeed. But it's not that simple. We forget there's a springboard of advantages for many of us.
Our ancestors' hard work, values and good fortune is a big help. So too, is an education system geared for Europeans.
It is fortunate that Nina, at a young age, sees in a non-judgmental way that poverty is normal, albeit undesirable and unfair. "These people are like you and me," she says.
It would be my hope that her generation grows up with that thought in mind.