Blog Action Day: Poverty

14 Oct

From the Blog Action Day site:

Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day (TODAY!). The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.  Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints & opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues.

I am so spoiled.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve been around.  Really.

What I mean is, I’ve done a lot of traveling and I’ve seen people living in poverty.  In situations that I cannot even begin to imagine living in.  I’ve seen the fear and uncertainty etched into the faces of those living with so little as they watch me, and I’ve felt guilty and spoiled.  I’ve seen it in Guatemala, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Poland, the Czech Republic, Prague, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Sydney, and all across the U.S. in places like the hills of West Virginia where I helped rebuild homes after flooding.  And inner city Chicago where I worked with Habitat for Humanity to help restore apartments.  Not to mention on the streets of large cities all across the U.S. like San Francisco, L.A., New Orleans, New York City, and Boston, just to name a few.  The more you see the more staggering it becomes.  So many people, living with so very little.  And yet, somehow, I return to my wonderful, climate controlled home with running water that’s safe to drink and a million other privileges that I take for granted every day, and the images of those people fade away.  I forget.  I can’t believe that it’s possible, but I forget.

Sure, I remember now and then.  The ad for an organization asking for donations catches my attention and I remember.  We donate to charities and/or missions.  We have friends who have served or are serving with missions organizations, and we remember when we talk with them.  But we don’t live with it.  We don’t live with the fear of wondering how long our child will be without food or how long the little food we have will last.  We don’t live with the uncertainty of whether or not our child will succumb to a common sickness like diarrhea.  We don’t live with these issues every day like so many people in our world do.  Too many people.  People we can help.

I don’t want to forget.  I want to do something to help keep the subject present in my life.  I want to do something to make a difference.  I want to teach Jenna that she can make a difference.  There’s a lot of talk and concern about the current U.S. economy.  Although we’re all feeling the pinch in many ways that we haven’t before, it might do us all some good to put our predicament into a global perspective, and to realize that we’re still “spoiled” by many standards.  I am so very thankful for everything we have and the simple things we take for granted every day.  Like access to medicine and doctors, clean water, food, a wonderful house, an education, heat, and clothes.  Like the computer I’m using right now.  Here are some sobering statistics to consider:

  • Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • 1 in 2 children in the world live in poverty. 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).

From Causes of Poverty

And here’s a little bit more food for thought: 

Global Spending Priorities from 1998:

Global Priority…………………………………….. U.S. $Billions

Cosmetics in the U.S………………………………..$8 billion

Ice Cream in Europe………………………………..$11 billion

Pet food in U.S. & Europe…………………………$17 billion

Alcoholic drinks in Europe……………………….$105 billion

Military spending in world……………………….$780 billion

And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:

Basic education for all………………………………$6 billion

Water & sanitation for all…………………………$9 billion

Reproductive health for all women………….$12 billion

Basic health & nutrition for all…………………$13 billion

Do you know that in 2000, 191 members of the United Nations committed to eight Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) to be reached by 2015??  At the halfway point, we haven’t done so well in reaching them.  Here are the eight goals:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Here’s what I’m going to do to make a difference.  This Sunday, October 19, I am organizing a Stand Up & Take Action Event.  I’m pledging to stand up for 30 minutes from 6 p.m. ET until 6:30 p.m. ET to demand that world leaders keep their promises to end poverty and global inequality.  Will you stand with me? The site guidelines call for a gathering in one place, but we’ll be unconventional.  They also only call for standing for only one minute sometime between October 17 and 19.  If you’re willing to stand with me, leave a message in the comments section stating what region of the U.S. you’re in and the time and date that you’ll be standing (and for how long). I’ll register my blog info at the Stand Up site.

I tried to think of what I could do in a monetary way to keep the awareness of this issue at the forefront of my life. I decided that for every coffee drink I purchase (um…..that’s A LOT), I will donate the same amount of money to CARE.  (And I’m going to work on a “Coffee Counter” for my sidebar to keep you posted).  Here’s what the CARE website has to say:

CARE tackles underlying causes of poverty so that people can become self-sufficient. Recognizing that women and children suffer disproportionately from poverty, CARE places special emphasis on working with women to create permanent social change. Women are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of HIV, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity and protect natural resources. CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives.

Every time I sip a cup of coffee, I’ll take a moment to remember how very fortunate I am, and I’ll remember all the faces of poverty I’ve seen in my travels and the far-too-many that I’ve never seen that are out there nonetheless.  And I’ll work on thinking of more ways that I can make a difference, every day.

What will you do?  Start with watching this 8 minute video and then think of something you can do to change the world.  It only takes a small thing.  Do something.  Tell me about it in the comments.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Posted by on October 14, 2008 in Charity, Global Good Stuff, Politics, Travel


13 responses to “Blog Action Day: Poverty

  1. R.E.M.

    October 15, 2008 at 9:02 am

    This is a wonderful message. While I haven’t traveled as extensively as you have, I will never forget nearly falling out of my chair when I looked on the State Department’s website and discovered that the average per capita income in Bolivia is less than my nanny makes in two weeks. Wow. (Other statistics that really make an impression on me as you look from country to country are infant mortality rates and HIV/AIDS infection rates.) Count on me standing with you on Sunday – Washington DC, Friday, 9:30 – 10:00 A.M.

  2. Renee aka Mekhismom

    October 15, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Great post! Like you I posted about poverty today. I am raising funds for impoverished schools on my blog and I think that I can stand with you on Sunday at 10. I am on the east coast.

  3. Heather~Domestic Extraordinaire

    October 15, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Wow that was an awesome post. I will stand with you on Sunday, same time but in NE Ohio.

  4. Auntie Amy

    October 15, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Definitely going to stand with you on Sunday.

  5. Susie

    October 15, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I’ll stand with you! in NE Massachusetts…

  6. Issa

    October 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    This is a great post and an amazing reminder. I’ve built homes with Habitat for Humanity; donated my times making and delivering meals to AIDS patients; I give money to charities every year; I’ve made homes and buildings (Earth Ships) in South America out of recycled materials….but I got mad that my Tivo didn’t record something last night; I buy whatever I want from a grocery store and never have to worry about my kids being hungry and I spend four freaking dollars a day on my coffee.

    I’ll stand with you. I’ll also go right now and donate at CARE. Thank you for this reminder. I needed it today, to help me feel less sorry for myself.

  7. AmyInOhio

    October 15, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    I’m trying to be aware of my actions more – eliminating waste and leaving the crazed consumer in me behind.

    For everything I put back at Target (things I didn’t need in the first place) it lessens the burden on me and frees up cash to do good with.

    I don’t know if I’m being clear, but my goal is to stop the maddening cycle of consumerism and lessen my negative dent on the world.

    Luv you PsychMamma – you’re a model for us all!

  8. iMommy

    October 15, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I’ll stand. Massachusetts, 6-630 ET.

    That coffee thing is a great idea. I might do it with you.. what do you think?

  9. Kylie

    October 15, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Yep, I’ve been there too. Ghana was the most impoverished country I’ve lived in, where even as the rich people there we went without power for 12 hours a day. The poor just had no electricity at all.

    I try to think about Ghana a lot. Remember to count my blessings.

  10. Maura

    October 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Excellent message, excellent reminder. This is one of the reasons I’m a supporter of Kiva — making small loans in disadvantaged areas helps break the cycle of poverty in small but significant, long-term ways.

    I’ll stand with you on Sunday, same time but in Pacific Time.

  11. Kristin T.

    October 15, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks for this inspiring post! I love your coffee idea.

    At our house, just when my husband and I became determined to cut down our own grocery expenses, we also decided to recommit to purchasing extra items for a local food pantry. It’s one simple way to think through issues like hunger and poverty on a regular, practical basis, and it helps spark good discussions with our kids. (They love to help pick out the cereal and soup flavors, too!)

  12. catnip35

    October 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Okay, I’ll pledge to stand up, same time as you. 🙂 I’m afraid I’ll forget – will you tweet a reminder?!

  13. ilinap

    October 16, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Great, informative post. We really take so much for granted. I’m talking about the small stuff like the stale bread we feed to the geese at the park and the 4 day old leftovers we toss. I too have seen hunger and poverty, live in Memorex. They are not images that will ever leave me.


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