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26 April, 2013

RECONNECTING THE DISCONNECTED

Children born between 1950 and 1970 could very well be the last generation of children raised by the village as we have to come know it. What did it mean to be a child raised by the village? Every adult in your community had rising expectations for you. They reinforced – in no uncertain terms -- the value system, life lessons, and social skills taught to you by your family. Parents, educators, school administrators, religious institutions, community leaders, non-profit organizations, and concerned adults worked as a team to ensure that the children of the village excelled academically and matured into productive and successful adults. If you were a child raised by the village, you were “every one’s child”. There was an implicit agreement among the Fathers and Mothers in the village that all adults had the right to admonish you when you were misbehaving and protect you from harm. A child being raised by the village felt connected, loved, and protected. In the Millennium, the village is a much different place. A number of children growing up in today’s village do not necessarily feel connected to anyone or anything. If anything, they feel “disconnected”. Why? The village does not seem to be protecting its children – its heart and soul. There are approximately 200 million children in our global village today. According to the International Labor Organization (www.ilo.org) in Geneva, Switzerland, it is estimated that children as young as ten years old – approximately 10 million children – work as domestic laborers outside of their family home. Approximately 10% of child laborers in Haiti are under the age of 10, while 70% of children employed in Morocco by other households are under age 12. What if you were 10 or 12 years and had to spend your days working instead of going to school? Would you feel nurtured, protected, and loved as you made your journey from childhood to adulthood? Would you have a positive self-image? What real life options would be available to you? Would you mature into a purpose driven, successful, and productive adult? Clearly, child labor is not a phenomenon of the Millennium. And clearly, 10 million children having to work to support their families is a symptom of a much deeper problem – poverty. If they are working, then they are probably not attending school. And the adults in the village are not necessarily talking to them about rising expectations. Poorly educated and uneducated children mature into adults who have limited or no marketable skills. As a result, they are unable to adequately provide for themselves and their families. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated. We cannot afford to have approximately 10 million children – the village’s heart and soul – and bridge to the future -- mature into adults who are uneducated, unemployable, and emotionally and psychologically “disconnected”. “Disconnectedness” breeds chaos, crime, and hopelessness. It is extremely difficult to be compassionate, maintain a positive sense of self-worth, and empower and strengthen the village in which you live and work when you are emotionally and psychologically “disconnected”. Eradicating the causes of poverty is a critical piece of the puzzle to “reconnecting the disconnected”, sustaining nurturing and efficiently functioning family units, and restoring order in our global village. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies which is located in London in the United Kingdom, at least 10.1 million people throughout our global village are incarcerated. Many of the incarcerated individuals are parents – parents who are disconnected physically and emotionally from their families and communities. In the United States, approximately 2,239,751 individuals are incarcerated; 1,640,000 individuals are incarcerated in China; Russia estimates that 701,900 individuals are incarcerated; approximately 83,999 individuals are incarcerated in the United Kingdom; 113,018 in Vietnam; 217,000 in Iran; and France estimates that 67,255 individuals are imprisoned. The United States has the highest prison population in our global village. And it is estimated that approximately 700,000 incarcerated individuals are released annually in the United States. It is also estimated that at least 1.7 million children in the United States has an incarcerated parent. Key stakeholders throughout our global village are beginning to acknowledge and examine the far reaching psychological and emotional effects of imprisonment upon the incarcerated and their families and loved ones. In the United States, religious leaders, social entrepreneurs, Thought Leaders, Fatherhood Practitioners, educators, law enforcement professionals, formerly incarcerated individuals, and concerned community members are discussing, among other things, how best to reintegrate into society the 700,000 incarcerated individuals who are released annually from prison. This dialogue is creating support for the development and implementation of parenting programs specifically tailored for Incarcerated Fathers who have been or are about to be released from prison. Key stakeholders are also discussing the development and implementation of a two-tiered intense and mandatory “healing” and “humanization” program which helps formerly incarcerated individuals “reconnect” emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically while simultaneously providing family members and loved ones of formerly incarcerated individuals with emotional and psychological tools to help them heal, trust again, love again, and create a future for themselves. \ Yes, the village of the Millennium is a much different place. It has become a place where many think of themselves as self-contained units. The truth of the matter is that we are connected to everyone and everything in the Universe. We are connected to the homeless, the physically disabled and mentally challenged, to the elderly, to children, to the incarcerated, to the fatherless, to the weak, to the strong, to the rich, to the poor, to the just and the unjust. Destiny, love, fate, hope, our dreams, our thoughts, and our frailties are the components of an invisible thread that connects the 7.1 billion people who live and work in the global village we know as Planet Earth. Our inability or failure to see our “connectedness” is plunging our village into chaos and imbalance. If we want the environment in our village to be nurturing, safe, and vibrant than we must go about the business of “reconnecting the disconnected”. When it’s all said and done, “reconnecting the disconnected” is an investment in the future. -->

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