What has struck me most from watching these programmes is this;
That when “real” people connect with real people who are being desperately disadvantaged through no fault of their own, then something very special happens.
The plight of fellow human beings is highlighted and through the wonders of film their appalling situation is shared with other “real” people, both in their own countries and in the UK. That is when the incredible compassionate nature of “real” people comes pouring out and in as little as 18 months the whole situation can be completely turned around.
This “toughest place” was a very small fishing village in Sierra Leone. The lives of the villagers had been made deeply stressed as every night, under cover of dark, huge trawlers would come close into the shore where they lived and dredge the sea bed stripping the ocean of all of the fish. They then later discarded all of the fish they didn’t want by throwing their dead bodies into the bay.
When the fishermen, in their dugout canoes, went out to try to catch fish to feed their village there were none there, and so the village went hungry. This in turn made the tension within the village very high and there was depression and crying little ones.
These trawlers were illegally robbing the sea of everything and the government was doing nothing to enforce the law.
On the strength of the evidence in the filming that BBC2 had done, the other “real” people of Sierra Leone woke up to the devastation that was nightly being visited on these hard working, ordinary folk, making their lives incredibly difficult and forcing poverty and hunger on them.
So that when the crew returned 18 months later, everything had changed. A 5 mile exclusion zone was enforced along the shore line. The Isle of Man had donated a super fast patrol boat. This was the fastest boat in the water and was staffed by enforcement officers with official paperwork and accompanied by armed soldiers.
This has led to there being NO trawlers in the bay and the fish stocks have replenished and the villagers have been able to feed the village and have a small surplus that they can sell to others including townsfolk from Freetown who travel to purchase quality fish caught in a sustainable manner.
This is the power of ordinary folks like you and me taking action when we are moved by the plight of others who are like us, but who have been compromised or devastated by the apparent lack of awareness of those who are supposed to look out for them. Or by reason that some people really do put profit before people and when they do that all kinds of atrocities can be visited on our brothers and sisters.
Raising awareness and sharing the plight of our people whoever they are and wherever they are, somewhat like the Red Cross, we can work miracles.
So be aware of what little actions you can take to make the life of another a little better. Maybe it is just a smile. Maybe taking the time to really get to know someone.
I hold a deep belief that the vast majority of people on this planet are caring, compassionate beings who would lend a helping hand to a fellow human being if the need became apparent. All we need to do is to care enough to connect with others.
You may not do anything as spectacular as inspiring the government of a country to uphold a law that is designed to protect its people. But whatever you do, if you are consciously aware of whether you are being part of the problem or part of the solution that is a step in the right direction. And if you want to be inspired then do watch the “Toughest Place to be” series.