I’ve got some news!
For five days in May I’ll be eating on $2 a day — the equivalent of the extreme poverty line in Australia. It’s part of a campaign called Live Below the Line. From May 6th- 10th, I’ll gain a window into the day-to-day lives of people who live in extreme poverty.
It’ll be tough, but it’ll be meaningful. Can you support me and donate to my campaign? All you have to do is head to my public profile at:http://www.livebelowtheline.com.au/me/alparsons and click on donate to me, and you can choose to make your donation tax-deductible
The way to stop child soldiers, child labour, corrupt governments, rebel groups, etc, is not through awareness. It is not through marketing campaigns.
Every problem inherent in Africa today is a direct symptom of a much larger issue: extreme poverty. The eradication of extreme poverty in Africa will lead to the eradication of every other major issue in Africa.
Child soldiers who volunteer into armed conflict (and there are many) do so because of one of two things: they want a better life for their families and themselves, and they see the only way to get a fair share of food and shelter is through the army and armed conflict. Education would help children be self-sufficient and have the knowledge and skills to keep themselves fed and clothed and sheltered, not to mention their families and communities.
Or they join up because of the ideology of the groups. Education would help keep these children from going over to the sides of the rebels or the government army; they would not fall prey to the cause.
The fact that more African children are not educated is a direct symptom of poverty. If money were pumped into these African communities, the number of children who voluntarily enter armed conflict will decrease as they will not have reason.
An end to poverty will lead directly to an end to hunger. Funds will lead to crops being grown, and not just grown, but sustained so as to keep growing and nurturing a community.
An end to poverty will lead to an end of desperation, and thus, an end the wide spread rape of women. Education will make sure these women can lead their own lives, and are not at the mercy of others. An end to the widespread rape of women will lead to a dramatic decrease in HIV/AIDS in Africa. An end to poverty will lead to women having access to contraception, which will again lead to a decrease in HIV/AIDS.
An end to poverty will lead to an educated and self-sufficient African population, which will in turn end to corruption of government and the divergence of funds.
An end to poverty will end all the atrocities found in Africa.
So, instead of tweeting about Kony2012, start sponsoring an African community, start supporting UNICEF and other charities that do not target a symptom, but target instead the disease. You can not fix a cold by taking cough drops, you can not end the use of child soldiers without first ending poverty.
Louneda vs. extreme poverty
This remarkable story, told by Chemen Lavi Miyò regional director Steve Werlin, captures a special case of extreme poverty and the spirit of Fonkoze’s program for Haiti’s poorest.
Louneda was never selected as a CLM member. She’s only thirteen, and, thankfully, has no kids. It was her mother who qualified for the program. The mother was pregnant at the time, and she and her five children had been abandoned by her husband.
She was living with Fanfan, her eldest, who is a seventeen-year-old boy, and his four younger sisters. Louneda, as Haitians say, “passed for” the second oldest child. A girl born between her and Fanfan had died. The family lives in Gwomòn, an agricultural region in the mountains along the border between Boucan Carré and Thomonde.
Then disaster struck. The mother gave birth to twins, but died in labor. The twins survived. Fanfan, the closest thing to an adult in the house, felt responsible. He knew he would have to look after the four girls already living with him, but decided he was unable to do anything for the infant twins, so he took one in each arm and hiked a couple of hours through the mountains to the Partners in Health complex in Cange, where he gave them away. “I just didn’t know how I could take care of them,” he explained.
Fanfan was left to do his best for his little sisters, and CLM could not help him directly because we only work with women. Instead, we took the oldest of the girls, Louneda, in their mother’s place. She is nothing like an adult in the household. Fanfan is the only one of the children who is ready to play that role. But she was willing to stick with Fanfan and her sisters, willing to try her best as long as Fanfan would agree to help.
He, for his part, promised to help her protect and develop her assets so that they’d be able to take care of each other and the three younger girls.
Louneda chose goat raising and pig raising as her two enterprises, and attended six days of training, hiking two hours to Boucan Carré each day to participate. She’s received her goats already, and Fanfan is helping her take good care of them. She’ll be getting her pig soon.
But not everything is going smoothly.
One of the keys to helping CLM families get started on the road out of extreme poverty is a small weekly stipend — about $1 per day — that we provide for the first six months in the program. It is designed to protect their assets by reducing the pressure they might otherwise feel to convert the assets into cash right away.
Louneda was getting her stipend, just like other members, but it wasn’t helping her family. As soon as she would get the money, neighbors would come by and borrow small sums until there was nothing left of it. Louneda knew that they would never pay back these loans, but she didn’t have the strength of character she would need to say “no.”
Fortunately, Louneda told us about the problem. We asked her whether it would help if we gave the stipend to Fanfan, and she leapt at the suggestion. She said that if he got the money, it would go towards making sure they had something to eat. It is clear that she trusts him deeply. So we’ve arranged to give it to them together. We won’t just give it to him, but we don’t give it to her without his presence. In other words, we make sure she can get it into his safe hands.
We’ll see whether this works.
They need some cash because they haven’t finished getting themselves and their younger sisters into school for the year. The last time we saw Louneda, she was running to the market with one hundred of the gourds we had given her. She was going to buy new underwear for her youngest sister so that the little girl would be able to start school the next day. That’s what her thirteen-year-old mind told her she needed to do.
The kind of personal attention and guidance that Louneda receives along with thousands of other families is expensive, but it’s the first step out of extreme poverty. Fonkoze is in the midst of a special campaign to support the CLM program so that 1,000 Haitians can change their lives for the better. Any donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar through a generous gift from the Vincentian Family. In one month, Fonkoze supporters have given $12,000. Help us reach our goal of $100,000 and visit our web site to donate now.
End of Day One: Living Below the Line
I have officially completed Day One of Live Below the Line…and it was hard. There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t want to grab a snack, drive down to McDonald’s, or whatever to satisfy my hunger.
I will admit…there were many moments where I thought about quitting. Started making excuses about why I shouldn’t take my body and mind through this, including my chronic illnesses of tension headaches and Crohn’s disease.
But, I kept telling myself…
over 1.2 billion people don’t have a choice. Some of them have ailments. All of them have challenges.
And, one of my first steps of making a difference in fighting extreme poverty would be to make it through this week. And, then who knows what the next step may be. But, I know it will be worthwhile.
So…Day One, Consumption: Two pieces of bread, a pack of ramen noodles and water.
Goal #1: Start my fight against extreme poverty.
Please donate to my cause. All proceeds are giving to Opportunity International and their efforts in fighting extreme poverty.
-Antionette D. Carroll-