Sunday, April 15, 2012

What does poverty look like?

I have been thinking about what poverty looks like. Here are some thoughts. (See the comments at the end about what type of poverty I am referring to.)

You know what living in poverty is like if you have experienced the following.

If you look at your children and worry that they will have the same life you have – that they will have to struggle to make ends meet all the time.

If playing a musical instrument is a remote possibility for you and your children, because you can never afford the tuition fees or the instrument itself.

If you can’t see any hope or future for you and your family even though you work long hours everyday of the week for months and years.

If your children have to work everyday to earn money rather than play with other children.

If your daily desire is that some day your socioeconomic situation can improve to a place where you can feel safe for yourself and your family, rather than a lifestyle where you can flourish and enjoy life's pleasures (because the latter is so out of your reach that you don't think you will get there).

If you feel that you are looked down upon by others because you are powerless socially and economically. You know that you and your family are trapped in a cycle of poverty and you cannot see a way out.

If a US$3 coffee seems to be too expensive for you.

If your loved one goes to the hospital she/he has to sleep in a bed in a busy corridor because the hospital is too crowded.

If you don't know what "taking a break to get away to somewhere for a holiday" is, because you need to work very hard to make ends meet. 

If you worry that you will be begging on the street if anyone in the family gets chronically sick.

If you cannot imagine that you will ever travel overseas because you know that you can never afford it. In fact, the few people you know who have travelled overseas are considered to be really wealthy by people in your social circle.

If you know what it means to be marginalised due to the fact that the rich and powerful in your land call the shots.

If the stress of lack of money causes ongoing tension and disharmony in the family, leading to domestic violence and constant distress among the children.

If your whole family sleeps in one bed, not because you choose to but because there is no room.

If the daily stress and/or the marginalisation you experience leaves you emotionally scarred, but you know that you need to be strong for the sake of your loved ones.

If you just want to cry because life is simply too tough for you.

PS. The above is not about extreme poverty where people are starving or have no place to live at all, but a good measure of poverty where daily existence is a struggle. Primarily I am thinking of the experience in a low-income country, although some of the above would apply to a country like Australia as well. Also, people perceive their experience of poverty differently, and so the above list is by no means exhaustive.

No comments: