September 23, 2005

Brebeuf alumnus speaks about
experience ministering in Africa

By Brandon A. Evans

About 200 students gathered in a large meeting room at Brebeuf Jesuit Prepara­tory School in Indianapolis to hear a member of the school’s first graduating class speak about his ministry in Kenya.

Jesuit Father Terrence Charlton, a member of the class of 1966, spoke at one of four yearly diversity dialogues at Brebeuf on Sept. 13.

Father Charlton currently serves as the Jesuit vocation director for Kenya and co-founder of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School.

The school, which Father Charlton spoke of during his presentation, is located in Kibera, a slum just outside the center-city of Naorobi, Kenya. With more than 1 million people living there, it is Africa’s largest slum.

The slum is rife with tribal wars, prostitution, crime and very poor sanitation.

Father Charlton read the accounts of a couple of students from the school, which serves AIDS orphans exclusively—in Kenya alone, about 800 people die of AIDS each day.

English, he said, is most of the students’ third language.

There is no free secondary education in Kenya, he said. It costs about $800 per year, and most of the people in Kibera live on less than a dollar a day.

Living in such a condition is the definition of extreme poverty, Father Charlton said.

“Such people are chronically hungry, unable to get health care, lack safe drinking water and sanitation, cannot afford education for their children, and perhaps lack rudimentary shelter and basic articles of clothing, such as shoes.”

Currently, the United Nations is considering a plan, under the Millennium Development Goals, to reduce extreme poverty by 50 percent in 2015 and eliminate it in 10 more years.

Father Charlton’s presentation was focused on the question, “Is Aid Given to Africa Money Down the Drain?”

“I respond with a resounding ‘no,’ ” he said.

Despite the number of those in extreme poverty declining in the world, it has actually doubled—to 370 million—in sub-Saharan Africa in the past two decades.

Corrupt governments do not explain the cause for this, Father Charlton argued, rather, it is because of disease, drought conditions, lack of energy resources and an uneven playing field that makes selling crops uneconomical.

Right now, he said, the United States give about .15 percent of its gross national product to help developing countries—it amounts to about $3 per African, little of which goes toward development.

To reach the Millennium Development Goals, Father Charlton said, would require each person in the developing world to give $.08 a day—roughly the cost of a stick of gum.

Such money, he said, should go to boost agriculture, improve health, invest in education, bring electricity to areas, and provide clean water and sanitation.

“Aid given to Africa should not be money down the drain,” Father Charlton said. “In our world today, we have the knowledge and the ability to eliminate poverty—extreme poverty—in our world … by the year 2025. But do we have the will?”

Freezell Brown, director of diversity at Brebeuf, said that one of the purposes of the various diversity dialogues throughout the year is to build awareness of issues affecting not only the school, but the world outside it.

“The larger goal of the dialogues is to help give the kids practice in talking about issues that are potentially controversial and to do so in a respectful manner,” Brown said.

The dialogues have grown in the past decade from small events with about 15 to 20 students to something many more people are interested in. †


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