Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Understanding Poverty

Poverty is one of the great evils of our age and exists in many guises. We see it in the weakened frame of an emaciated African child, the lack of life-choices and medical services facing the farmer of a small plot of land in Asia, and the dishevelled homless person on the street of an Australian city.

Poverty can be defined as the absense of the well-being God intends for humankind. The Bible provides an image of the world as God intends it to be - communities of people engaged in a loving, worshipful relationship with God, enjoying the fruits of an abundant earth and the deep bonds of love with one another.
Poverty exists wherever this vision doesn't. This means that to some extent we are all poor. Nonetheless, poverty in its most terrible forms exists when this vision is chronically lacking in multiple dimensions at once.

Tragically, that is the reality for many of the people in the world today. Over one billion people struggle to survive on an income less than $US1 a day. Another billion live on less than $US2 a day. Deprived of the abundance of the earth, their health breaks down, social structures collapse around them, and the daily struggle for survival makes the development of their full human potential impossible.

Christians are called to respond to the poor with compassion and generosity. What can you do?


audrey` said...

This is a very sad reality.
The income gap is widening.
The poverty circle is an inhumane trap for many.

I respect Bill and Melinda Gates as well as Warren Buffet for their great generosity.

Kitty Cheng said...

Yes it's certainly true that the poverty circle is an inhumane trap for many :(

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Despite what you may hear sometimes, the global trend is away from poverty and towards increasing properity in most countries. That said, there remain terminal problems of poverty in Africa.

I think we need wisdom in responding to poverty. Poverty cannot be solved overnight by huge giving.

Poverty can only be solved by the development of stable economies and growth in trade.

Every Blessing in Christ


Kitty Cheng said...

I agree with you totally here Matthew. Poverty needs to be resolved by aids and development, not just huge giving (although giving is extremely important too).

Radagast said...

The important thing about giving is giving to the right people.

Large-scale aid to government doesn't always work for example.

"Micro-loans" have worked quite well (especially micro-loans to women).

Targetted aid to local groups also works well (CBMI does good work, for example).

And yes, the development of stable economies and growth in trade is also important.

Kitty Cheng said...

Radagast, your idea of "Micro-loans" to women sounds interesting. How does it work?

Radagast said...

It's not my idea!

From this article:

Microloans are very small loans made to women so that they can start their own businesses. It was started by an economics professor, Muhammed Yunus, who believed that the poor needed credit, not charity. Starting in 1976, Yunus created the Grameen Bank and secured donations to fund its lending programs. (Grameen is a Bangladeshi word that means rural.) Today the bank is self-supporting from the interest paid on its loans to the poor. Repayment rates are very high because Grameen has learned how to structure its program for maximum success.

Microloans are aimed at women, since across most cultures women consistently deal more responsibly with the loans than men. An individual woman might buy a sewing machine or a loom, or perhaps a simple handcart to start a delivery business. Although the money is loaned to individual women, every loan must be repaid in order for others in the local group to get any additional loans. In addition, there is a social contract to which every participant must agree. Among other things, members pledge to drink only safe water, limit the size of their families, educate their children, grow vegetables and refuse any participation in dowry customs (which are the source of much violence against women).

One other example I remember reading about is where a village widow was loaned money to by a mobile phone, and her "job" became taking it around the village.

Kitty Cheng said...

Wow very interesting and smart way of helping the poor!

fletch said...

I have also heard of groups that make loans to a GROUP of men that work together in a particular industry in some contexts. The idea is that there is mutual accountability as well as the fact that the group can "take up the slack" when someone is out of work for physical reasons or otherwise... It all comes down to "exegeting" the culture in which you work and discovering the strategy that is appropriate for that place. I do know that statistics say that loans to women are a safer bet, but I think it is worth the effort to ask appropriate questions and discover how to meet the need, while lifting the dignity of the loan recipient. (That dignity includes the repayment of the loan. grin) A few years back, I lugged a pretty heavy portable knitting machine from Japan -- where it was deemed nearly worthless to a now-arthritic owner - to Hong Kong, where I gave it to a worker in China who found someone who was overjoyed at the prospect of setting up a cottage industry with his new-found treasure! He made it a loan by allowing the guy to pay a small amount for the machine, over time, based on his new business. This makes it benefit without being a "charity handout". Win-win! :-)