Thursday, September 21, 2006

Kevin Sites, Journalist

Kevin writes, Justice, grace and defiance: What I learned from a pregnant 15-year-old Ugandan girl

An extract : It's only later that I will realize Anne's story has helped me find a solution to a dilemma that I've been struggling with since coming to Africa.

For weeks I have been reporting on the tragedies and misfortunes of people trapped in the consequences of armed conflict in Africa.

Each story is important, I believe, and resonates with the common denominator of our human experience: the desire for a peaceful life and to have enough resources to take care of ourselves and our families.

But I became concerned, especially after reading some of the reader postings, that our reporting efforts* -- while certainly educating people -- could also be overwhelming them.**

"What can I do?"

"How can I help?"

"This story is so horribly sad, I just want to cry."

All valid responses, but they made me wonder if the information we were providing through story after story would eventually sap hope, rather than build it.

Part of the obvious answer for me as a reporter is to try to show the full dimension of these people's lives -- not just their suffering -- but also their silliness, their laughter, their humility, their grace.

And thinking about Anne's story, I also realized that, while it is important to take action, to be a part of the solution, a story is empowering in its own right.

Just by knowing something, being aware, maybe we become better people. Knowledge can help us to build greater empathy for everyone in our lives, not just people in Africa.

Through hearing someone's story, in all its complexities, we gain the potential to grow in kindness or generosity toward those closest to us, as well as those far away.

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