An Obligation to Act

Two Wednesdays ago, during the ASM on October 31, Rolando Bonachea ’13 confronted the Andover community with some uncomfortable truths in his Lorant Fellowship presentation. Through his narrative about his trip, Rolando brought the alarming child labor situation in Turkey to our attention. He described the horrid work conditions and bleak living situations which kids our own age or younger are forced to endure, descriptions which were shocking and disturbing, to say the least. While students were certainly sympathetic and concerned about the children in Turkey, we still went back to our classes and sports as if nothing had just happened. It was then and there that I was reminded of how we, lost in our own lives, tend to brush aside the injustices of the world. Still, how could we—teenagers—be expected to fix this major global problem? We are horrified by these acts of cruelty, yes, but our apparent lack of power causes us to ignore them. The child labor situation in Turkey, however, cannot be ignored. Instead of studying stars in the Observatory, these children are working in sweatshops. Instead of attending a Model UN conference, they are working to support their families. To make things worse, some of these teens work 12 hours a day just to earn a single dollar. Rolando has taken the first step in trying to remedy these problems by spreading awareness. However, his actions, and all other speeches or research projects on the subject, can only amount to real solutions if they inspire action. Though we are not Turkish citizens and have no say in Turkish elections, as Americans we are fortunate to have a strong influence on global affairs. We can encourage the federal government to lobby initiatives at the International Monetary fund and the World Bank, and we can ask these institutions to lend funds to nations with economies that are dependent upon child labor, such as Turkey. Through these actions, we can help nations target their issues and develop strong education and health services plans. At a non-governmental level, everyone can find a way to get involved. There are countless human rights advocacy organizations that students can take part in. As Craig Kielburger reminded us in an ASM earlier this term, it does not matter which organization you get involved with, so long as you get involved. This philosophy means that whatever issue you feel passionate about changing, be it Turkish child labor, Syrian genocide, Ghanaian child trafficking or American wage slavery, you must stand up and enact change. The words on our seal say “Non Sibi,” not for self, and as part of the Andover community, we have an obligation to uphold that commitment. We cannot stand idly by while people are suffering from great injustices all around the world. Before we take action though, we do owe thanks to Rolando for sparking this awareness, for making us sit in our seats and squirm as he urged us to acknowledge this inconvenient truth. Devontae Freeland is a two-year Lower from Aberdeen, NJ.