Roughly 80% of the worlds population earns less than $10 a day but income is not the only or even the best measurement of poverty. Deprivations are a more accurate measurement. The poor have the cards stacked against them from the beginning. They lack access to clean water, health, education, shelter, and basic necessities. But that’s not the only thing going against them. The poor are nearly always exploited by the rich, subject to social injustices, subject to sexual exploitation, crime and easily become prey for poisonous ideologies that promise a better life whether its failed ideologies from the past like marxism, communism, guerilla warfare or recent ideologies including to some extent ISIS.
So what is the best way to help the poor?
When we were living in Ethiopia a few years ago my wife initially tried to help with the pervasive north american mentality of hand outs. She gave out clothing, food, tarps for shelter and blankets. The next month the people were in the exact same condition. In fact they had sold much of the hand outs for cash. She either needed to repeat the process all over and thus create life long dependency or find a better way.
She started to help individuals develop their own business plans and earn their way out of poverty through micro-loans. She has now helped more than a thousand individuals start small businesses for them and their families.
The photo above is of Zerihun an example of how this has worked for more than a thousand individuals so far. Zerihun is an orphan who was living with his sister. His mother was a street worker (prostitute) and she died when he was 10 years old. He doesn’t know his father. Eventually he found employment with a private garage welding doors, windows, beds etc. He was earning less than a dollar a day. There was no possibility of saving any money to escape his poverty as he wasn’t even earning enough to eat.
Through the New Hope project a loan was given to him to buy his own welding equipment. He started his own mobile business and paid back the loan the very first month. A year later a second loan was given to buy a metal cutting machine. He paid off this loan in 5 months. This year he opened his own store front, has 50,000 ETB in the bank and is employing two helpers.
This is how to help the poor earn their way out of poverty and it costs nothing as the loans are repaid!
It does require committed volunteers like Demelash and Asdenik who are committed Christians and they have an army of 17 volunteers that scour the communities looking for the poor and vulnerable to help and manage the loans.
In the photo is Asdenik (Accountant), Demelash (project manager) and Mariah (East Africa Rep for Devxchange). This is another example of doing much with little. Both Asenik and Demelash have been offered huge salaries and comfortable lifestyles from other organizations but they have chosen to sacrifice themselves on behalf of the poor and find their satisfaction in seeing the life changes being made.