Today is Blog Action Day and thousands of bloggers write about poverty. I would like to ask you to stop for a moment and think of your poor (grand-) grandfather. If none of your grandparents suffered from poverty, think of another poor relative (and for sure you will find one if you track down the history of your family).
My grandfather suffered extreme poverty during the time of World War II. He was five years old when the war started in Poland in 1939. Together with his parents, four brothers, and a sister, they lived on a small farm in Dulcza Wielka. The house was burnt to ashes by the German troops as they marched through the village, and the family had to separate in order to survive. My grandfather, his sister, and their mother went on to another village, where they begged for shelter and food. They were extremely hungry, and my grandfather was close to death from malnutrition. He was saved by a Russian soldier who saw the dying child and took him to a mobile army hospital, where he was treated.
After the war ended, the family of my grandfather reunited and came back to the farm. They had to rebuild the house, and replant the land, which was another period of poverty and hunger. Slowly, the land started to yield crop and the family managed themselves out of poverty.
Now, as you think of your own grandfather, grand-grandfather, or another family member, it is likely you will find a similar pattern. Poverty has nothing to do with character, mindset or capabilities; but it is linked to external conditions. Millions of people in different parts of the world that are close to starvation are just as capable to earn their living as you or me. They are forced into poverty by the circumstances, such as war, drought, land ownership, lack of financing opportunities and many more. By changing these conditions, we can help the poor manage themselves out of poverty, similar to what my grandfather and his family had done.
How can we address the conditions contributing to poverty? Following are just a couple of examples.
- Microcredit. Lend money to entrepreneurs in the developing world and empower them to lift themselves out of poverty, for example via Kiva.
- Social Business. Invest in business that is totally dedicated to solving social or environmental problems. For more information about social business, you may read the book by Muhammad Yunus.
- Education. Support initiatives with the goal of educating the poor, as lack of education is one of the major conditions creating poverty. You can find an educational project that can benefit from your support via GlobalGiving.
- Fair Trade. Allow the producers in the developing regions to get a fair share of the profits. Look for products that have fair trade labeling and reduce poverty with your trolley.
- Open Source. Contribute to the open source movement and make software, media, and education accessible also to those that cannot pay the license fee.
What are your examples of initiatives addressing the circumstances that create poverty?