Two weeks ago, several of England’s cities were plagued by civil unrest on a scale seldom seen in this country. Shops were looted, cars and buses torched and buildings destroyed, wantonly, including several homes. The people whose homes burned lost everything they owned and treasured and faced the heart breaking task of rebuilding their lives from scratch.
Thankfully for them, they do not face this daunting task alone and unaided. The local authority has stepped in to provide temporary accommodation and there will be help as they rebuild their homes and replace lost possessions. The Government has indicated that it will compensate them for their losses. Thanks to these measures, their current circumstances, whilst distressing, should turn out to be temporary.
Across the world, not everyone can share this hope. In many places, those who lose their homes through unrest and conflict face an uphill struggle to simply survive. They are often left to fend for themselves, forced to sleep rough on the streets, huddled in corners and vulnerable to every threat that comes their way. Many are reduced to begging for food for their children. There will be no recompense, no help from the authorities, and precious little sympathy from anyone else. Through no fault of their own, they join an underclass of the dispossessed and despised, and this is where they are likely to stay.
In Kenya, for example, the disputed elections of December 2007 led to riots and violence in January 2008 that left many people with nothing. Their homes were destroyed, businesses looted, breadwinners killed. Afterwards, many felt unable even to return to their former neighbourhoods, and instead, found themselves in makeshift camps, sleeping in tiny tents or in Red Cross dwellings the size of an average garden shed – if they had any shelter at all. Years after the violence had ceased, these people are still displaced, their lives still in ruins and with no change in sight.
It is not just those who have lost their homes that suffer in these circumstances, but the entire society. When suffering is allowed to continue, healing cannot take place. Those who have lost everything cannot forgive and move on if they cannot rebuild their lives. Hope melts away and despair takes its place, and the blight goes on, infecting the newest generation and perpetuating the conflict.
World In Need works to help people who have nothing build lives filled with hope and promise. We enable children to go to school when they might otherwise be denied the education on which their future depends, and we encourage and support their parents in various ways, from helping them set up small businesses to providing training in vocational skills. Our sponsorship programmes give hope to children in the poorest families in the poorest places on earth.