Poverty is a Complex Problem With Many Facets.
The most widely held and understood definition of extreme poverty, established by the World Bank, defines poverty in strictly economic terms — earning less than $1.90 a day. But the World Bank has also described poverty as follows:
"Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom."
This description of poverty includes lack of access to social services, "fear for the future," "powerlessness" and "lack of representation."
The World Bank has also developed indicators to assess non-income dimensions of poverty. These indicators include education, health, access to social services, vulnerability, social exclusion, and access to social capital.
The Poverty Wheel
A wheel can serve as a good representation of the problem of poverty around the world.
The hub represents absolute poverty. The spokes represent the different needs of those in poverty. The rim represents enough.
Our mission is to bring children from the hub (poverty) to the rim (enough).
The Social Spoke
Social poverty — where people groups are undervalued, have few or no rights and have no voice.
A culture or government that devalues people — especially children — is an obstacle to releasing them from poverty.
Children are the most vulnerable to being exploited as cheap labor, child soldiers or possessions.
We work with government and cultural systems to encourage the idea that children are a valuable resource. As such, children should be cherished — and given every opportunity to flourish.
The Educational Spoke
For hundreds of millions of people around the world education is an unaffordable luxury. Lack of education (educational poverty) creates a lack of options and difficulty finding employment.
New information combined with practical training is necessary to develop and maintain a life of adequacy.
Children are often the best communicators of new information to their families. They are ready to adopt new ideas and adapt those ideas to work even better in their communities.
We are committed to take the best and most relevant information to the children we serve, so they can be effective change agents right where they live.
The Spiritual Spoke
Spiritual poverty — having no access to the gospel or never hearing about Jesus.
Without an understanding of the Word and ways of God, it is difficult to understand yourself. Nearly four-fifths of our world's children are growing up with no knowledge of God's love for them through Jesus Christ.
We work in many communities where Christianity is not the religion of the majority. We cannot — and will not — coerce any child or parent to become Christian. But many have decided to follow Jesus as they experience God's love through the ministry of our local church partners.
Children's lives undergo a revolution when they realize that God loves and values them. They understand that they were placed on the earth with a divine purpose in mind.
Many go on to develop a deep commitment to discover and fulfill that purpose for God's glory.
The Health Spoke
Health poverty may sound strange, but there are many, many people around the world who don’t even know the importance of brushing their teeth, or making sure the water they drink is clean.
Physical and emotional health are the basis for our abilities to work work, play and develop sound relationships.
In many impoverished families, good health is no guarantee. That's why we teach children how to monitor their own health for common diseases and provide hygiene training.
We also offer medical interventions when more serious needs arise.
The Environmental Spoke
Physical surroundings — climate, water supply, housing and land — all affect a person's well-being. The circumstances of poverty put children at particular environmental risk.
Our program helps children deal with their challenging environment and dream about how they can make it better for the future.
The Economic Spoke
To keep life in balance, people need enough income to purchase what they cannot make or grow. Jobs that provide adequate income for unskilled laborers — especially in urban areas — are few. Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
Our program emphasis on education and job-skills development helps prepare the children we serve for better employment opportunities than their parents have and a future with an adequate income as skilled, working adults.
How Do the Poor Define Poverty?
The poor describe poverty in terms of suffering relationships. Relationships are central to a person’s belonging, identity, affirmation and other socio-emotional needs.
The relational fabric of a person is his or her means for navigating social norms, accessing resources and mobilizing the skills of others toward common goals. "Whom you know" matters a great deal in any context, including that of a poor man [or woman] navigating his way out of poverty.
A survey conducted in Niger in 2002 by the Office of the Prime Minister asked the poor of that country to describe poverty. Their answers provided the following:
- Dependence was mentioned by 40 percent of the respondents, with some noting that a poor person always had to "seek out others" or to "work for somebody else."
- Marginalization was noted by 37 percent, who defined a poor person as one who was "alone," had "no support," did "not feel involved in anything," or was "never consulted."
- Scarcity was included in the poverty definitions of 36 percent, who used statements such as having "nothing to eat," a "lack of means to meet clothing and financial needs," a "lack of food, livestock and money," and "having nothing to sell."
- Restrictions on rights and freedoms
- Incapacity was mentioned in connection with poverty by 21 percent, including the incapacity to make decision, to feed or clothe oneself, or to act on one’s own initiative.
- Only 36 percent of the poor in this survey described poverty in terms of material lack [scarcity].
Similar descriptions were found in a major World Bank study published in 2000, Voices of the poor: Can anyone hear us?
Ultimately, to release children from poverty, we must give them the opposite of poverty. We must give them enough — enough to succeed physically, socially, economically and spiritually.