What is Poverty?

Last summer on our Dominican mission trip I found this article laying on one of the shelves.  I asked Carrie, one of the guesthouse directors about it.  She said she often uses this article to read to groups that come to work at Solid Rock that are not believers.  Yet, I personally found it very fascinating.  I don’t think most Americans would say they are “rich”, yet if one has clean running water, food, clothing, and shelter, by the world’s standards you are rich.  The following article really helped me to put things in perspective.  I hope it helps you too!  One thing that was shared with us by the translator for Compassion when we met Martin was that one of the biggest parts of sponsoring a child is that it gives them hope of escaping poverty.  She actually was once a sponsored child and now is well on her way to becoming a doctor!

A few years ago the World Bank asked researchers to listen to what the poor are saying. They were able to document the experiences of 60,000 women and men in 73 countries. Over and over, in different languages and on different continents, poor people said poverty meant these things”

–          You are short of food for all or part of the year, often eating only one meal per day, sometimes having to choose between stilling your child’s hunger or your own, and sometimes being able to do neither.

–          You can’t save money. If a family member falls ill and you need money to see a doctor, or if the crop fails and you have nothing to eat, you have to borrow from a local money lender and he will charge you so much interest that the debt continues to mount and you may never be free of it.

–          You can’t afford to send your children to school, or if they do start school, you have to take them out again if the harvest is poor.

–          You live in an unstable house, made with mud or thatch that you need to rebuild every two or three years, or after severe weather.

–          You have no close source of drinking water. You have to carry it a long way, and even then, it can make you ill unless you boil it.


But extreme poverty is not only having unsatisfied material needs. It is often accompanied by a degrading state of powerlessness. Even in countries that are democracies and relatively well-governed, respondents to the World Bank survey described a range of situations in which they had to accept humiliation without protest. If someone takes what little you have,

And you complain to the police, they may not listen to you. Nor will the law necessarily protect you from rape or sexual harassment if you are a woman. You have a pervading sense of shame and failure because you cannot provide for your children. Your poverty traps you and you lose hope of ever escaping from a life of hard work for which, at the end, you will have nothing to show beyond bare survival.


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