We recently got contacted by an american freelance journalist Ashley Bennett (http://Ashley-Bennett.com/) that asked us if we’d like to write an article for us.
An opportunity that cannot be refused !
But what about should we asked her to write about ? Us – there won’t be anything interesting or new, an entrepreneur we met – which one to choose, we decided then to share with her one of our question of the moment. After 4 and a half months, we’ve been many time on the field and met some of the people the entrepreneurs are working with – we put some faces on some of the 1 and we don’t know how billion people living with less than 1$ a day.
But one thing surprised us, they never seemed to be in the same distress than the homeless people that are ending up on Paris pavement. They always have a chicken running around, selling something on a corner of pavement or simply have a smile on their face. The hope of raising up in society, a more helpful environment, we didn’t have the time to think about it yet. But here are some really well documented clues and reflexions that Ashley gathered to help us consider poverty beyond borders and beyond the only scope of the income.
Poverty is a creature without a face. Boundaries are nothing and it affects everything that it touches financially, mentally, and physically. One of the more unusual aspects of it is that it can affect people differently depending on where they are located and the society in which they live. How can we eradicate a creature that is already difficult to identify?
What is the official definition of global poverty?
There is no absolute method to measure poverty across borders, but both the UN and the World Bank have created some general guidelines. The United Nations defines poverty as “a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society.” The World Bank defines poverty as “an income level below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs.” Their definition also goes on to say that “poverty lines vary in time and place, and each country uses lines which are appropriate to its level of development, societal norms and values.” Poverty around the world largely resembles an overall lack of basic necessities, resources, and opportunities, whether it is in the US or Haiti.
The True Face of Poverty
Given that there is no precise definition of what poverty is, then how do people around the world experience poverty?
“Poverty is humiliation, the sense of being dependent on them, and of being forced to accept rudeness, insults, and indifference when we seek help.” – World Bank Report
The face of poverty shows itself in the lack of job opportunities, the children without food, and the societal stigma. The circumstances tend to manifest in ways that constrain entire groups of people financially, psychologically, and physically. Discrepancies in health care, education, and political power create a completely different way of life that causes people to feel shame, hopelessness, and depression. This is universal because any person that finds himself from the outside looking in would
share the same feelings and experiences of someone else in similar circumstances in another country.
Poor People in Rich Countries vs Poor People in Poor Countries
As the saying goes, “there are rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries.” Poverty has no nationality as it transcends borders. The poor of industrialized countries are treated slightly differently than those of the third world because certain elements of poverty lifestyles are considered to be illegal. For example, many of the acts associated with homelessness are considered a criminal acts in the US as it is illegal in most places to set up any type of dwelling outdoors unless it is accompanied with the proper permits. Anyone that lingers in a public area for too long is at risk to get apprehended for trespassing, or vagrancy.
The homeless of America must make every effort stay indoors or go to far removed places in the woods to have tent cities, which are technically illegal but allowed to flourish in some areas. Whereas the poor and homeless in other parts of the world like India or China are allowed to hobble together a living outdoors without being hassled by the authorities. Those in developing world face a similar transient lifestyle as they are vulnerable to harsh weather conditions, gentrification, and civil conflict.
The Poor in the US vs The Poor in Haiti: A Comparison
The United States Census Bureau report from 2010 stated that the poverty rate in the US was 15.1% of the population or roughly 46.2 million people. The US Department of Health and Human Services has defined the poverty line as an annual income of $23,050 USD or less. Although that may sound like a significant income in some countries, that is very little money in America. Americans in that income bracket receive a substandard education, fewer job opportunities, and little or no access to proper healthcare or even food in some cases. Pockets of poverty in America are concentrated in urban and rural areas in which there is physical danger, increased risk for health problems, and poor representation in the political arena.
The World Bank reported that the gross national income per capita is in Haiti is $660 USD. It has also been reported by the Institut Haïtien de Statistique et D’Informatique that 78% of Haitians live on less than US$2 a day. These figures tell us that the poor of Haiti are considerably “poorer” than their American counterparts, but they also face some of the same difficulties. There is a fundamental need for food, water, jobs, and shelter for the majority of the population. They face the same issues types of issues that the poor in America do, but to a much greater extent.
Smiling Faces Show No Traces of Poverty…
“Each person assesses poverty relative to the lives they used to enjoy, or, depending on the context, relative to the lives around them.” – World Bank Report
Many tend to stereotype of the poor of developing countries as being happy despite their circumstances. Sadly, their smiling faces show no traces of the daily hardships and challenges that they face just to gain access to food, water, and shelter. Their perceived happiness does not result from a holistic view of poverty, but rather a tendency to focus on appreciating the little that they do have.
The key to remember is that poverty is a relative term that varies depending on the country a person resides in and what it is considered to be the ideal lifestyle. A television set or computer may not make them happy, but maybe a farm with lots of land would. Life in a developing country means that most will simply settle for having a job, land, food, education, and their family nearby.
Those in industrialized societies often appear to be more unhappy than those in developing countries because their idea of happiness usually includes a lot more material items that they cannot afford. For the most part, people in Haiti are not measuring themselves against celebrities or business tycoons, but a lot of people in America do that. A good life in Haiti means a decent home, stable job, safety, and food. However, a good life in America means a large house, fancy clothing, gadgets of all types, and a private jet.
The World Happiness Report states that “the happiest countries…also have a high degree of social equality, trust, and quality of governance.” It seems that the things that make people happiest are having their basic needs met, stability in their job, and the intangible aspects of family, spirituality and overall mental and physical well-being.
Being happy and feeling a sense of appreciation for what you do have is the way to build upon that foundation and gain a better chance to succeed. Given that most people in the developing world lack material items, they tend to focus on maintaining a decent, stable lifestyle. The lesson for those in industrialized countries is that they should find peace in what is in front of them and set their minds to achieve more if they so desire.
Article by Ashley Bennett / http://Ashley-Bennett.com