Living on $1 a day
Well, if any of my regular readers thought I’ve been very quiet over the past few weeks, then the answer is “Yes.” And if you think that I’m very lazy, then the answer is “Yes!” I’m actually on leave at the moment, and although we’re at home, I’m trying to do as little as possible and appreciating every moment of it.
But as 2008 is coming to its end, I decided to publish one more post, for two reasons: One is that the topic is important to me and secondly: This is my 300th post since I started blogging and I wanted to post this before the year runs out.
Eric Bryant, author of Peppermint-filled piñatas which I wrote about here, recently published a post which immediately caught my eye: Eating for a $1 per day in the USA. It’s about two teachers, Christopher and Kerri, who decided that they want to determine whether it is possible to survive on $1 per day (the amount which is described by the World Bank as living in “extreme poverty.” You can read more about their adventures on their blog: http://onedollardietproject.wordpress.com/
I was touched by what they had done and immediately wondered if I would be able to convince a number of my friends to do the same. Perhaps we could make some kind of statement by doing this. And then I thought about this some more. The reality is that I’m working in Swaziland within a community where it is calculated that 60% live on less than 45 cents per day! Furthermore: from this money they not only have to buy food (which is difficult enough) but they also have to pay for transport, medication, clothes, school fees and much more – something which the people who took part in this project did not need to do. Christopher and Kerri also had access to discount stores where they could buy in bulk – once again a luxury for most people living in rural areas in Swaziland who have to make do with small stores within the rural communities and which are extremely expensive.
But then, the most important thing: After a month the two teachers could return to their “normal” way of living (although I’m sure that they would have made some changes after this revealing experience). In Swaziland, living in extreme poverty, trying to make ends meet with hardly any money, is the “normal” way of living, day in and day out, month in and month out, year in and year out.
Perhaps we all need an experience like this, if only to make us aware of the plight of the people in the poorest countries in the world. But we need to remember, (as we all recently had our Christmas dinners and in a few days time will sit down to a feast to celebrate the coming of 2009), that there are millions of people in the world who have no idea what it means to have three meals a day.
My wife teachers mathematics and computer science at a highschool and was engaged in a debate with one of the learners some time ago. She tried to convince the learner that it is wrong to make decisions based purely on the financial implications of the decision. Specifically the discussion was about an occupation and my wife said to the girl that it is better to have an occupation in which you are happy, even though the salary may not be the best, rather than working for a big salary but being unhappy in your work. And this girl made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she disagreed with my wife. When my wife asked her why she felt so strongly about this, she replied: “I can’t imagine how it would be not to wake up each morning wondering whether you will have food to eat that day!”
What Christopher and Kerri did, is commendable. I salute them for doing this. But this is not reality. This is something of a “Survivor” game, after which it is possible to return to a normal way of living. I’ve seen reality, and it is truly heart breaking.
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This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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