I just read a sad story about a mother forced by poverty to choose which one of her 6 kids to send to school. The mother fled from Iraq with her children to Syria after her husband got killed in Iraq. Syria gives citizenship to Iraqi families who enroll at least one of their children in school. The mother can only afford to send one, so she had to choose one of her kids.

She decided to send the second to youngest, a ten-year-old boy. She sent him because he would not feel as embarrassed at school in the family’s torn and raggedy clothes.

The family lives in a one-room apartment without heat or a bathroom door. The family’s income is less than the rent alone. The children have trouble reading and writing. Growing up in those conditions and without an education, I doubt the children ever will escape poverty.

Unfortunately, that horrible story only represents one family in a world with billions of poor people. I hope one day this horrible suffering will come to an end. I hope one day we will end poverty.

Posts your comments about that story and your own stories in this thread at the Hunger and Poverty Forums. It’s completely free, and all viewpoints are welcome.

Comments Off
 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty Stories |

Garret Mathews recently wrote a column about the bitter reality of poverty:

You’re taking a bunch of fifth-graders home from the pet store and the mall. They live on the poor side of town and don’t have many opportunities to go places. In some cases, their caregivers don’t even have cars.

You get a good feeling from providing an experience the children would otherwise not have. At one time or another, you’ve taken out just about everybody in the class.

You hope that a few will be able to break out of the cycle of poverty. You constantly push the importance of reading and working hard at school.

The odds are against them. Many of these youngsters live in inadequate, overcrowded housing units. Many family members have problems with drugs and alcohol. Some are in jail.

Few of the kids reside with both biological parents. Some are shuffled back and forth among relatives best able to come up with the month’s rent money.

Read entire article by Garret Mathews.

I highly recommend reading the entire article by following the link above. In it, Garret Mathews continues with her second-person narrative, describing the pain of listening to a poor little girl describe her dream of becoming a heart surgeon when you know her environment won’t allow it.

In the United States, 50% of children born into poverty never escape its horrible grip. These children have no defects. They have as much potential as their more privileged counterparts. The unfair social environment never gives them the opportunity to reach that potential. Like seeds that you plant in bad dirt without sunlight, the problem comes not from the individual but rather the environment.

Comments Off
 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty Stories |

My Best Dinner Companion

22 August 2006

by Jennifer Shukla

Several years ago, I was living in New York City for a summer as part of a college internship. I had a roommate there, but we kept very different schedules so I almost never saw her. Every morning on my way to work, I would pass a homeless woman who slept under an overhang on the side of my building. The first few days I saw her, although I’m certainly not proud of it, I experienced a feeling common to those people with jobs and homes living in the city who encounter homeless individuals on a regular basis. I looked at the woman sitting there in rags and saw nothing more than another smelly dirty homeless person and resented that I had to go to work while she just sat there all day asking for other people’s money. Despite my awful attitude, the homeless woman pleasantly smiled and waved at me every day when I left in the morning and greeted me every time I came home at night. Her constant friendliness broke through my barriers and I started to return her smiles and waves as I passed by.

After a few days of our new arrangement of exchanging pleasantries, I began to wonder, who was this woman? It bothered me that I saw her everyday, said good morning or waved, and yet knew nothing about the woman other than that she lived outside my building. So, I started pausing to talk to her instead of just passing by some days. I learned that her name was Anna, that she was very religious, and that Anna had been a cleaning person. On the days when I stopped to talk to Anna, I would usually give her some spare change or a dollar. I did it partially because I felt bad for Anna, but honestly I was probably more motivated by a feeling of social obligation than genuine charity. Although I passed Anna at least twice every day, other than my brief encounters with her, I gave her little thought throughout the day.

After a few weeks, though, I was cooking dinner for myself in my apartment one evening. I found myself wondering what Anna was eating that night, whether she had gotten enough spare change to buy herself food that day. I looked at the box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in my hand (I was a college student, it’s what I lived on those days) and realized that it would be no extra work to make a little more macaroni than I could eat. I wanted to share the extras with Anna, but was afraid that she would be insulted that I thought she couldn’t get food for herself or that it was somehow a bad thing to do. I nervously scooped out some macaroni on a paper plate and brought it to Anna. I don’t know why I was afraid, I guess I thought maybe she would throw it at me or yell at me. I clumsily offered her the food and she gratefully accepted. Then I wandered back upstairs to my apartment. I knew it was just a tiny little gesture, after all it had been no extra work to make a little more food and had cost me next to nothing, but somehow that simple act made me feel a lot better about myself and about the world.

After that, it felt a lot more natural. Sometimes I went out with friends or my boyfriend or ate at work, but whenever I cooked at home, I would make a little extra and bring Anna a plate of spaghetti, rice, grilled chicken, or whatever I made with my limited cooking abilities. Some evenings, I just brought Anna the food and left. Once in a while, I would bring my food outside too and sit and eat with Anna. On those evenings, Anna would talk and I would listen. She wasn’t as clever or as witty as others that I’ve known, but she was honest, forthcoming, and friendly. Anna told me about life on the streets and the life she had before she lost her job and home. Sometimes Anna mumbled or repeated the same stories over and over, but she never once judged me or expected more of me than I was willing to give. She was always very grateful when I brought her food and never complained about the nights when I didn’t bring her food.

Eventually, the summer ended and I had to head back to college. I would love to say that I kept in touch with Anna but that would be a lie. I said goodbye, handed Anna some cash, and moved away. But I never forgot those dinners with Anna. To this day, when I encounter a homeless person, I don’t just see a pile of dirty rags, but an individual with a unique story. It makes me smile when I think that my little gesture of kindness did so much. It cost me almost nothing, took very little effort, and yet helped feed a woman who might not have been able to eat otherwise and brought me in contact with one of my all-time favorite dinner companions.

Please post your comments on the above story in this thread at the world hunger and poverty forums!

 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty Stories |

by Scott Hughes

I had a friend recently ask me why I called myself an atheist. She said, “you seem to have such a big heart.” Apparently, she thought that there was something oxymoronic about a benevolent atheist. (In her defense, it turned out she thought I was a Satan worshiper, not an atheist. :) )

As a history buff, a news junkie, and a political activist, I certainly must acknowledge all the helpful and philanthropic accomplishments of religious people and religious institutions. One must commend what religious people and religious institutions have brought to this world – in terms of education, healthcare, nourishment, housing and unity.

Even though I acknowledge these achievements, the idea that religion could possibly have a monopoly on philanthropy shocks me in its absurdity.

I could reject the suggestion of a link between religion and philanthropy on the basis that religious people have committed great atrocities in the name of religion. However, humans have committed great atrocities in the name of many non-religious ideas as well – Namely communism and nationalism. The fact of the matter is that humans commit atrocities, religious or not.

Despite that cynical point, I think it’s manifestly false to say that the only reason a human would be kind is because a god or gods told the human to. Yes, mankind is far from perfectly benevolent. However, mankind is equally far from perfectly callous.

The reason I help people is not because a god told me to. The reason I help people is not because I believe such actions will get me into heaven. The reason I help people is not because I believe it is moral. I don’t even believe in god, heaven, or morality.

I help people because it makes me feel happy. I believe that I am not the only person who receives this pleasure. In fact, most (if not all) of humanity takes pleasure in helping each other out.

Love may be a deep emotional connection that’s hard to define, but I think it�s a secular word. Philanthropy literally means love of people. There is nothing necessarily religious about loving people. People, religious or not, love other people. Are we not all philanthropists in our own light?

I’m a cynic; don’t get me wrong.

It may seem that the abundance of social conflicts between mankind are incompatible with the theory of mankind’s inherent philanthropy. However, this seeming incompatibility quickly vanishes when one remembers that people often engage in self-destructive and foolish activities.

If one can accept that a person would harm themself due to their own self-destructive folly, one can equally accept that a person would harm the object of their love due to the same self-destructive folly, even if that object is all of humanity.

What religious people may call sin, I call foolishness. What religious people call good, I call wise.

Whether you are religious or not, let me ask you to do something that will make you happy. Remember that inside of you and every person is a quintessential love. This quintessential love conflates the self with humanity. Fundamentally speaking, to say one loves oneself and humanity is redundant. Whether you believe this love is endowed by a godly creator or not, let yourself act on that quintessential love. By helping others you help yourself. By pleasing others you please yourself. Let yourself be at one with humanity.

About The Author: Scott Hughes owns and operates Millions Of Mouths – a website dedicated to ending hunger. Read more articles like this at the hunger and poverty blog on MillionsOfMouths.com:
http://millionsofmouths.com/blog/nfblog/

You may republish this article so long as you keep all links intact and keep the “about the author” footer.

Why Be A Volunteer?

5 August 2006

by Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed

Why Be A Volunteer? What is in it for me, to volunteer my time and energy?

Volunteering allows me to be part of a group of respected, well meaning people who serve others. In my volunteer work, I find like minded people who share my vision to be part of a happier well functioning community. Personal relationships dont work, people work at having good relationships. Giving is part of making relationships work.

When I started volunteering, I was intimidated at the wealth of skills and abilities among the volunteers. I met many hard working people doing meaningful work. I also found appreciation for my skills. There was a great sense of conviviality, lots of laughs and stories galore. When I thought I couldnt manage the work load, I found amazing support from other volunteers. I came to realize it was partly my independence and as an eldest daughter my characteristic of taking on too much and not wanting to ask for help.

Every part of life asks us to make an investment in time and often money. Where we invest determines how our life evolves. My investment in volunteering, has included:
by being on a board,
attending and presenting at meetings and conferences,
driving and shopping with and for others,
reading, writing and distributing literature,
stuffing envelopes,
making phone calls,
canvassing,
managing fund raising events,
selling at fundraisers,
listening to the frustration of others and offering support and advice,
and more.

What do I get from volunteering depends on what I give. Being a volunteer has enriched my life by bringing satisfaction when goals are reached, introducing me to new and interesting people, giving me opportunities to learn new skills and helping me have a sense of being a part of the solution to the problems in life. I cannot imagine my life without the wonderful experiences I have had as a volunteer.

About The Author: Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed., is a registered marriage and family therapist in private practice in Burlington ON Canada and author of books on personal growth through travel. For more information www.mbcinc.ca

Comments Off
 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty Stories, Ways To Help |

From: http://blog2endhunger.blogspot.com/

Going hungry isn’t fun. It doesn’t feel good to the body or to the soul either. But it happens. It can happen to anyone. It has happened to me more than once. More than I’d like to admit, but, I think that people should know that no matter who you are, there’s always that chance that you could be wondering where your next meal is going to come from.

I’ve always had a difficult time either getting or keeping a job. Keeping one has been the most difficult for me. I have a daughter who misses me so much when I’m not home that she gets depressed, which has stressed me out too much. I have never been able to handle this situation well. And since I put myself in this situation, I hope to help others by sharing my story so that maybe they’ll know that they’re not alone or that they don’t have to go through what I did. There is help out there.

My daughter’s father used to buy groceries for her, but it was only enough for her and it was only when he would pick her up on a Saturday or Sunday. If he didn’t pick her up, then she went without for that week. And back then I wasn’t able to get food stamps. Now I’m not so sure that should have been the case, but, anyway, this meant that there wasn’t a lot of food in the house, so, I skipped a lot of meals to make sure that my daughter would have food. I usually ate when I started to feel weak. I’m not sure how well I hid the pain from my daughter. She’s pretty in tune with my emotions.

My daughter’s father stopped coming over to pick her up because she didn’t want to go with him, he didn’t buy her food either. So, we were really running low on food. It was so sad when my daughter would still be hungry after eating one helping of food. It also broke my heart when she would be eating and I wouldn’t join her. She look up at me with her beautiful brown eyes and I’d see a tear or two running down each cheek, which would ofen bring me to tears that I had been holding in. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to see look at my daughter’s face anymore.

I had to find a way to help ease her sadness. I explained to her that she needed to eat more than I did because she’s still growing and it wasn’t going to hurt me to eat less. I think she would tell me that she was full before her food was gone, just so that I could eat the rest.

I went to the pantry a few times and each time it was like we had one the lottery. I’d look in the cupboards that had once been almost completely empty and just thanked God that someone out there cares enough to buy food for the pantry and that there is somewhere to go to.

I did get emergency food stamps a couple of times, but for one reason or another, I’d get denied to get any on a regular basis. So, I tried to make them last by not eating too much myself. But I also couldn’t let my daughter not have seconds every single day. It just broke my heart too much.

I still don’t have a job and I have been getting the Link card for a few months, so now our cupboards are full. And so is my freezer. I still look in my cupboards and my freezer sometimes and thank God for how blessed I am.

I’m sitting here eating some almonds that I bought a couple of months ago. And I’m drinking a cup of coffee with french vanilla creamer. I enjoy my food more. I still eat junk food sometimes, but I eat healthier than I used to. I had missed snacks. Popcorn. Strawberries and banana yogurt. I savor everything I put in my mouth. And I don’t waste food. My daughter now understands why that is so important. She doesn’t like leftovers too much, but she remembers when we didn’t even have enough food for leftovers.

From: http://blog2endhunger.blogspot.com/

Comments Off
 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty Stories |
Children suffering from Poverty