Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our power as human beings...

We live and share our lives in a world with various organisms all around the world including animals, creatures, insects etc. Too often it is easy for us to believe that we should get that can of insect killer and try exterminating and begin killing all insects which may have intruded on our little space, whether that is in our room, kitchen, in our backyard or simply on the streets. But is that really fair and our right as humans to do so? That is, are we killing them for the right reasons? Or is it more just because they are in our personal space, even if it is just for a short and brief period of time? Is it because it is convenient? Because we like or enjoy killing insects? Or is it our nature urge to do so? Or is it because they are different?

But are they really that different from us? They are alive aren’t they? They have similar desires such as wanting to eat, sleep, raise a family, socialise and explore. I see them as living beings that deserve some respect and space just as we as human beings deserve. Although they may not look exactly like us, I believe they deserve to live provided they do not attempt to kill and injure as may be the case with deadly spider or snakes. Even so, rather than choosing to simply kill or eradicate them isn’t it better to just relocate them to an environment that poses no danger or threat to themselves or ourselves?

I believe that in most instances we have that option. We are given that choice to kill or not to and that there ‘are other options’ to which are available to us which may require a little more effort, but wouldn’t you prefer to allow another living being to live rather than die? I'm sure you'll agree that it better not to abuse our responsibility and to do what is right for all living beings.

Live according to your thoughts.

'Honestly express yourself' is one of the core belief of Bruce Lee, who, in his Lost Interview DVD (Bruce Lee: The Lost Interview) consistently encourages. For him, honestly expressing yourself means being honest with your true intentions and thought processes and displaying this through your actions.

An example he uses to illustrate this is through expressing yourself in such a way that when you would are thinking of punching, you punch, when you're thinking about kicking, you kick, and not necessarily doing anything else.

How I see it is, just as some people say you should try do what you love and to find your vocation ("Finding your vocation"), you should try live your life in such a way that you find that you are not deceiving yourself, i.e. your true self. As someone once told me, it is about as being honest and 'always being true to yourself'. If we are able to achieve this, then our lives too will be in synch with ourselves.

It's all in the mind...

They say, 'it's all in the mind', and this injured lady proved it walking and powerwalking from Docklands all the way to Donvale (i.e. if she made it). I witnessed her presence at the 20km checkpoint during a 50km Upstream Foundation fun run/ walk where I was helping man by ensuring that participants had adequate food, water, and sunscreen!

Now it's not often that you'll see an injured lady (she had pretty much a plastic like plastered leg) undertaking such a course, but it was more so that she was overtaking a group of fitness club (I won't quote the fitness club as I'm sure they would be quite embarrassed for me to quote their name) participants, but here during the event I did. It wasn't as though the fitness club folk weren't capable, in fact, they were more than capable, it's just that they were pretty much dead last and that it appeared that this was a case of the case of the bunny (well bunnies) vs the turtle.

This story has the gentle but injured lady persisted along her way towards Donvale, while the bunnies were dawdling, taking enormous breaks and moving on only quite close to closing time for our checkpoint stand. This lady would have been at least a hour or so in front of them, yet it was her mindset, courage and will to continue that I truly admire.

Now I can't be certain of the outcome of this story as I had to leave soon after the checkpoint 2 was closed, except that I know that the course does get quite tough later on with numerous hills and the fearce battle with the battering heat as it was past midday. I expect that she would have still finished up before them, as I anticipate that they underestimated the course and rested too much too soon, and with the sun, that would have made things worse.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
-Kahlil Gibran

This is such a great quote! It sums up the true nature of how we can as individuals truly help those around us, and with 42 billion dollars worth of volunteering the role of all volunteers is important and is not something to overlook.

Now this was quoted at a YMCA volunteer training camp which also pointed out that in helping others,

"one should look at helping someone on their journey rather than satisfying one's own curosity"

which is quite often the common and instinctive human thing to do. Although it is often the small kind words of advice or encouragement that is all that is needed to help someone with the decisions and choices that they may face in life.

Of course, we don't want to make decisions for people, but it can help open up thoughts and options that they may not have realised themselves and that you have prompted. If not immediately, then perhaps it may come to them in the future, just as that little piece of advice given to me, i.e. 'to make something of myself!' has so affected my outlook and view of life!


A person is a person through other persons...

Recently, I attended the APCCAN (Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect) 2009 conference in Perth (15-19 November 2009) as part of the Youth Participant Program and was kindly sponsored by NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and my local council, Hobsons Bay City Council. My goal - to learn about the challenges and issues facing our community in preventing child abuse and neglect, particularly how, as a young individual/group – we can help work towards putting an end to child abuse and neglect and advance the wellbeing of children, young people and their families.

Here are my notes on my experiences and the key points and facts that I would like to share with you all. There is discussions within Facebook where one can also discuss this topic with other young individuals so please feel free to let me know if you're interested in participating it that (mailforvu(at)gmail.com)

'Face to Face': APCCAN 09 Young Participants' Program from Youth Affairs Council of WA on Vimeo.

Noticing, caring and preventing child abuse and neglect
The ‘socially isolated’ are at the highest risk of child abuse and neglect and the problem goes up the lower the SES (social economic status). There is a strong correlation with the level of neighbourhood quality with actual maltreatment rates, and as such, creating a more active engagement within the community, enhancing sense of collective efficacy, and having the neighbourhood care for families will generally see a reduction in the amount of child abuse and neglect within a community.
It was pointed out that ‘informal services are more effective than formal services’ as one shouldn’t be a patient or a client in order to receive assistance from other members of the community. Moreover, it is important to have someone who will notice and someone who will care regardless of whether one is enlisted with the formal services or not. Often, people within these affected communities may find it difficult to trust authorities, and so, these informal networks are very crucial in ensuring that they have someone to go to.
It was also noted that one of the best way to reduce crime was to increase social interactions, which makes sense as keeping people busy and giving them a sense of a community will create feelings of wellbeing and belonging. Much the same feelings we humans have had in the tribal days.

A nice quote mentioned by keynote speaker, Gary B. Melton, points out how people find themselves within a community, i.e. ‘a person is person through other persons’ - Desmond Tutu.

Children in their own right and the need to identify child abuse/ neglect instances
Seeing ‘children in their own right’ and understanding the need to identify instances of child abuse and neglect were other key points mentioned at the conference. Since we need to listen to children particularly when they report something is wrong, or else we may find that difficult and challenging situations may arise as what our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had acknowledged and apologised recently (on 16th November 2009 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8r_IyKQKrA)). Mr Rudd's speech was presented at the opening of the APCCAN conference and was the best example of what the work of not only the representatives and delegates present at the conference were working to prevent and reduce, but all those around the world in their various communities. Their work is particularly important, especially as people often ‘normalise’ the effects or signs of child abuse and neglect, which they may see as a common way of life. When in fact it isn’t so, and that a professional may be able to identify certain situations which didn’t appear apparent to the individual and/or group/community.

Long-term effects
Surprisingly, it was mentioned that long-term effects of people who have experienced an adverse childhood experience have been noted to live 20 years less than the general population, and that it was hinted that childhood abuse may reduce the ability of certain genes to be expressed. Everyday experiences can often also trigger the recall of childhood abuse experiences for affected individuals with one example mentioning that a participant of a training program (I won’t mention what type to ensure that I can preserve their identity) found the experience too tough and withdrawing from the program due to recalling these childhood abuse experiences.

A kind and sincere speech
At the conference dinner, Therese Rein, NAPCAN's National Children's Champion, presented one of the best speeches I have ever heard. It was most heart-warming, honest and caring and touched many (if not all) individuals present at the dinner. I was sitting next to Julie McCrossin and she noted it as one of the best speeches she had ever heard - and she would have heard many great speeches!!! I feel quite priviledged to have been there to listen to it and am glad that Therese Rein is the NAPCAN champion. It's great to see her using her role alongside Mr Rudd for such a great purpose and role :D (BTW, if I can find someone a copy of that speech I'll be sure post it for you all!!!)

Young people - they do want to listen to you!
There were various Child Commissioners and Guardians present at the conference and one of the consistent messages I have received from them is that they do want to listen to you all. They would like to engage with you better, it's just more so that they have found it a bit challenging to find the best ways to engage you. Especially given that they don't fully understand the potential and the capabilities within the online social mediums such as Facebook and Twitter. As mentioned earlier, the youth participants of the conference have an online facebook group where we do discuss and share discussions on the child abuse and neglect issues and it would be great to see those who want to be involved become involved. As it is important in ensuring that we can help them to get things done better and right.

Young people can make a difference...

We each can make a difference in our own way, as each of us as the different skills, knowledge, awareness and interests that will no doubt change the world in which we live in. From the new inventions being created, to being able to facilitate and improve the lives of those around us. We all have our role in society.

In our community, this can mean some people give their time, others money, while others, simply their support, acknowledgement and respect. It all plays a part and adds value to our community and the society we live in. We all contribute to that.

I witnessed many great bands a few weeks ago, and saw how much talent youth people (in fact anyone) can truly have! It goes back to the finding your vocation comment from Tim Costello and the advice from the ACS conference. Once you find your passion, what you love and enjoy then you can find that you can make a difference in that aspect of society. Nothing is too little. Every bit counts and it adds up to make the society that we each share today. To live, to participate and to make that difference in the world that we live in :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Early investments (on young people)... not followed up by later investments are not productive

An interesting US article, Youth Today: One More Time: Don’t Pit Preschoolers Against Teens, http://forumfyi.org/content/youth-today-one-more-time-dont-pit-preschoolers-against-teens provides an insight that might be useful for us to apply in Australia as it discusses the value of investing in the development of child early on and on an on-going basis. It outlines some of the social and economic benefits of investing in our youth and how “early investments … not followed up by later investments are not productive.”"

Social benefits:
It discusses how "investment in very young children … improves school readiness and decreases crime, teen pregnancy, delinquency, substance abuse. and welfare dependency,”' “A fiscally conservative approach would entail greater investment in the development of young children. … While funding Juvenile Justice programs is necessary, prevention through investments in the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children makes good economic and fiscal sense.”"

It also explains how there is "value in investing in preparation and prevention
versus waiting to intervene further down the road...[and] investing early...[however], there is something wrongheaded and dangerous about equating prevention with early childhood and intervention with teens...[and]sustained
investments [need to be made] in the "cognitive, social and emotional" development of
all children."

Economic benefits:
"The bottom-line conclusion of Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman’s 2006 economic case for investing in children is simple: “Invest early in children – and don’t stop” (emphasis added). The second half of the sentence, “and don’t stop,” marks a notable departure from Heckman’s previous work, which argued that fundamental skills are produced in the early childhood years and that remediation after the fact was cost-prohibitive."

"The updated argument of Heckman and Flavio Cunha, both University of Chicago economists, released in the America’s Promise Alliance report, Every Child Every Promise: Investing in Our Young People, is that “cumulative investments yield compounded returns.” Their new position reflects new developments in neuroscience, as well as more sophisticated econometric models they and others are using that take into account more factors, both on the input and the output sides of the equation."

"The fiscal argument could not be more straightforward. “The compounded effects of consistent, cost-effective investments in children and youth pay for themselves and are a necessary strategy to keep America strong in a competitive world where human capital is at a premium,” Heckman and Cunha say.

This means that reflects how addressing youth early on, sets the foundations for many young people to grow and live a prosperous and happy life, and how on-going support ensures that many will be able to stay on track to achieve this :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Youth Report - State of Australian People report 2009

The Youth Report - State of Australian People report came out recently and although it covers a number of different areas from education, work, social participation and technology use, I would like to share certain details from the report.

I will mention details relating to young people and volunteering as I know I have heard many similar and varied views on this and some of these have been reinforced, at least from the perspective of the report (although one must consider the scope and coverage research undertaken for the report and it would generally only provide a snapshot of our community).

Here are the interesting facts (some may surprise you while others mightn't):
  • One in third young people volunteer within a 12 month period, however, they do so infrequently.
  • Those most likely to volunteer are: women, those in education or paid work, those who completed Year 12, those who live outside of major cities, those who speak English at home, and those who give money to charity.
  • Reasons young people give for volunteering include: to help others or the community, personal satisfaction, to do something worthwhile, and personal or family reasons.
  • Young people do not believe that compulsory programs qualify as volunteering, and many feel exploited and stigmatised by them.