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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

Guest Column: Help at home, then abroad

It’s wonderful that so many people today are making themselves aware of problems in other parts of the world and offering a helping hand. It is evident that there is not only an increase in awareness of foreign issues, but an increase in interest, openness, and willingness to engage in problem solving worldwide.

This new openness is especially prevalent in high school and college students. I commend all who have given time and/or funds to help make a difference in areas like Darfur and other third world countries. This awareness demonstrates not only a willingness to give, but also the level of maturity that must be present in order for young people to help with problems outside of themselves and put great effort into alleviating them.

My only concern in this situation is this: If we are concentrating all of our energy on issues far from us, who is taking care of our own communities? If we are exhausting all of our time and money on issues away from home, what energy is left over for the areas where we live? Since we have found it within ourselves to give help to those struggling in foreign nations, we should be able to focus some of our energy on our own communities as well.

This concern is not only directed toward individuals and community organizations, but also toward our government. The amount of money offered by the United States to foreign aid, although it changes yearly, is surely an outstanding number. Through foreign aid, including goods and services, our government expends a large amount of resources that could be used to relieve problems from which our own country is suffering.

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I am not denying the importance of foreign aid, or saying that we should not help those in need, but that our government is not investing adequate funds on helping those in need within our country. Shouldn’t the welfare of U. S. citizens be first and foremost in the minds of our government officials? I find it disturbing that while state and federally-funded organizations are experiencing massive budget cuts, our government continues to shovel money away from our problems.

I encourage all who are interested in volunteering to look for opportunities at home as well as worldwide. Although some of the problems in our local communities aren’t as severe or as visible to the media as foreign issues, our problems are just as real, and need real attention. It is important that we give back to our own communities, because if we don’t help ourselves, who will?

For instance, every community needs environmental maintenance. If you’re most interested in saving the environment, get involved in a local “Adopt A Highway” program where you can take a stretch of highway and keep the land around it free from the garbage and debris caused by passersby. The same type of work is needed in parks and other public areas. Take action in your community by volunteering to maintain the land. Or if you’re looking for a summer job, apply through your city to do anything from cleaning up litter to planting flowers and mowing lawns.

Environmental help is not the only way to get involved. Hands-on experience working directly with people can be attained through volunteering at a local homeless shelter. Or if you love animals, contact your county’s humane society. They’re always looking for volunteers to walk dogs, socialize the cats, feed animals, clean or even help with adoption paper work. The training session is usually fairly short and they are willing to work around your schedule.

I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of opportunities that are available in all of our communities, and if you have the good nature and enthusiasm it takes to help with foreign issues, local problems should be no problem at all. I think it’s time to give back to the areas that we take from the most-our own communities.

If we don’t, no one will, and the issues will grow exponentially until they become the issues that the media are interested in. I urge you not to let our communities suffer by allowing problems to go without attention and therefore escalate out of control.

Take action in your own community and watch the difference being made right before your eyes.

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