15 October 2008

Poverty - perspective from a fat lass

Am I living in poverty? No, categorically not!

So why is it important to me, as it is to so many others, if it doesn't affect me directly? Why try to raise awareness and do something about it?

Well, for a brief phase of my life during one winter many years ago, I found myself having a little brush with poverty, well, a form of poverty. I had no money at that stage (truly no money - not just very little) for food, for heating, or even to feed the electricity meter and precious little food stocks. It was not a pleasant time. But, and this is a big but, I had a roof over my head and clean running water.

I've never forgotten this period and hate to think I would ever repeat it. But I'm one of the lucky people - for me it was temporary and, relatively speaking, pretty mild. For others, all over the world, poverty is what they encounter every single day of their lives. Very often for them there is no way out. This isn't truly 'life' in all its fullness, but 'existence'. So, my experience of 'poverty' might seem like riches to some people and their families - and very often, like for me, it happens to them through no fault of their own.

So what can one person do do make a difference? Well, simple things like taking time to really think about poverty and what your help might mean to those living in poverty, talking to your friends and family to express your concern and plan how you can help.

Look at groups like Traidcraft, and choose their products. Small purchases like these can provide a lifeline for some impoverished individuals. Other charitable organisations like WaterAid can make a huge difference to the lives of others. There are lots of similar charities, some with a local remit and some global - just Google and see who you find.

And then there are micro-financing organisations like Kiva which, with your help, provides groups and individuals with the means to begin to lift themselves out of poverty by giving loans. This isn't a 'donation' or 'charity' in the old sense - it gives a hand up, not a hand-out. And why is this important? Because it allows people in need of assistance to retain a sense of pride - they are working to help themselves escape the poverty trap.

Whatever you do, however modest, it won't be too little to make a difference. Every tiny bit will help if enough people get involved. So, go on - do something today.


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