It’s expensive to be poor. It sounds strange but it’s true.
You see, sometimes we forget just how amazing things are. Things that we use every day, that we have as a normal part of life in Australia. One of those things is technology, and the access to facilities that save us so much time and money.
Take a trip to the bank for example. If we want to withdraw some money, we can just go the local ATM in our area, or even take it out from the supermarket when we do our next shopping run. It’s even better if we want to transfer some money to someone else, we can do that from our desktop, or mobile device, which can happen anywhere, even on the toilet.
On the odd occasion that we actually need to go into a branch, the banks have ‘reasonable’ opening hours and we can take some time during our work day to do that. Sure it may ruin our lunch break but we can do it.
In places like the Philippines, getting access to cash or to make a payment is not as simple. It actually requires a physical visit to the bank. A remote agricultural worker needs to give up a days wage to travel to the nearest financial service provider and pay for the transportation, this is a huge cost burden. Imagine losing 20% of your weekly income, plus travel expenses, just to visit a bank. Nobody likes banks that much…
This another example of the complexity of poverty, and how those who are living in it can be trapped by the daily issues they face. But the more we understand it, the more we can do about it and create a hand up for those caught in its cycle.
Extreme Poverty is defined as anyone living on less than about $2 a day. We still have hundreds of millions of people in that situation which is horrific and no one should ever have to go through it.
I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I would try to calculate what I could with $2 per day to see if there is a way that I could survive. Surely you can make anything work, if you budget well enough, were frugal with spending, survival would be possible. Extreme poverty can’t be that difficult. Can it?
Not only is that a harsh way to look at it, but my thinking also had a fundamental flaw. One of the most difficult aspects of life for those living in extreme poverty is the unpredictable manner in which they earn an income. Whilst in Australia, most of us know what our next pay check is going to be, when it will arrive in our bank account and how we can access it. In places like India for example, many work in unregulated areas and do so irregularly. They may earn $20 on day ten which averages out to $2 a day. Meaning that they don’t literally receive $2 every single day. It’s not neat and tidy and it makes budgeting and increasing financial security impossible.
There are many organisations, including Opportunity International, who are fighting against this and creating a way for people to earn a regular income to increase their financial security, making life just that little bit easier.
We all have motivations that drive our behaviour, whether they be to feel good, or because of love, or a sense of responsibility and sometimes it comes from guilt.
Guilt can be a strong motivator and I have come across a number of people who will give generously to churches or charities to appease a sense of guilt they feel about one thing or another. Sometimes that guilt comes purely from within them, and other times the organisations they give to have sought to create a sense of guilt for them, so that they will give.
Whilst guilt can motivate us to do good things, it is not a quality long term motivating factor. After a while, people will generally tire of feeling guilty, like they are trapped in to doing something, and cease to engage in their generous acts.
A stronger motivation, and a somewhat healthier one, is a sense of responsibility. This is a more positive, proactive response that doesn’t require someone to feel bad about there current situation. Instead it provides a way for a person to use their current situation for the benefit of others. To act out of freedom.
As Australians, we are one of the wealthiest countries on earth, we could feel guilty about that and offer our generosity as some sort of payment to overcome the guilt, or we can see our place in the world as a gift, which carries with it a responsibility to help others who are not as financially blessed as we are.
We all love a good comparison. Whether we are comparing our car to the person next to us at the lights, or our homes when we visit our friends, or how well our kids behave. Our life can be one long journey of measurement against the things and people around us. As we all probably know, comparison can actually be quite dangerous and destructive.
But there is a website that you should check out – it compares every person in the world according to how much they earn. globalrichlist.com
All you need to do is put in your annual income and it will give you a ranking, to the person, according to your wealth on a global scale. It is a very interesting insight and quite profound.
The average income of a full time employee in Australia is almost $82,000, and according to the website the average Australian sits in the top 0.3% of the world. That means if the world was in a line starting at the richest person all the way back to the poorest person, the average Australian would have 99.7% of the global population standing behind them in that line.
That is incredible to me and it shows me that, whilst Australia is certainly not perfect, we are in such a strong position to create positive change with our wealth and influence that comes along with wealth.
Where do you rank in the line? What positive changes are you going to create through your wealth and influence?
Have you ever wondered why you act in a certain way?
When I was younger I used to sit at the back of every classroom, meeting room or theatre I found myself in. I would tell myself I did that because I was a ‘Back Row Bandit’, and I was rebelling against the system of rows that we were forced to comply with. I was a freedom fighter of sorts…
Over time I discovered that wasn’t true. In reality I was feeling insecure and I worried that if someone was sitting behind me they could see over my shoulder and observe my actions and realise that I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t want to be found out – it’s not an uncommon experience I’ve discovered.
Understanding why we do the things that we do can be one of the most complicated elements of being a human. We are intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical beings and at any given moment there can be a dozen influences at play within us that can effect our behaviour.
Allowing ourselves time and space to reflect and ask the ‘5 Why’s’ can assist in the discovery of the root cause of any sort of behaviour, career choice, reason why we choose to be generous, or reason why we choose not to.
It’s not a judgemental process but a great tool that we can use to get to the heart of why we do the things we do.
Sit down, think of something you do consistently (this could be something great that you do), or a behaviour that you wish to change, and ask yourself why you do it. For every response you have follow it up with another why. Be honest, gracious and intentional. Once you get to 5 why’s you are well on your way to understanding your motivation, which could be fear (much of what motivates me to do things that I don’t really want to do is fear), or regret, or pain. When you can articulate what motivates you (again, without judgement), you can begin to make conscious choices to change or refine that behaviour. This is a step in the journey of living life on purpose.
People make mistakes. All of us do. It’s a fact of life. How we respond to those mistakes will either allow us to create something great out of them or it will define us.
Many people give their money generously to a vast amount of charities. When people give, they have an expectation that the money will be used wisely to create a positive impact in a certain area of the world.
Sometimes those expectations are not met and the positive impact is not created, in fact it can actually cause a negative result. I have seen this often with international development. When organisations work in developing countries to fight against poverty a program that they implement with the intention of doing good can backfire and create harm. I’ve heard of projects where the experts convinced local farmers to change their crops, so they could grow more of another type of food which would increase their income. In the end the new crop didn’t produce anywhere near what was predicted, so the farmers were left with less than they would have if they didn’t change, and what they did harvest, nobody wanted to purchase because there was no demand.
That is bad development. But it’s not the end of the story. If we allow it, by being open and honest when things don’t work out, bad development can be the stepping stone to good development then great development and then life transformation.
It’s the same in everyday life. A mistake doesn’t have to be fatal, in fact it can be the greatest thing to ever happen because it brings learning and a fresh perspective.
When you work in an industry for a while there are usually a number of words or phrases that become the flavour of the month or year or decade. Almost cliché like.
In an office environment I would hear ‘going forward’ regularly, or ‘synergy’ or ‘touch base’, ‘circle back’, ‘think outside the square’, ‘reinvent the wheel’…I could go on. Don’t get me started on the acronyms. Oh yes, the acronyms, mostly the TLA’s (three letter acronyms, there is COB (Close of Business), ROI (Return on Investment) FTE (Full Time Employee), ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival – should that not be ETOA?) or my favourite BAU (Business As Usual).
One word that gets overused and under appreciated is transformation. It sounds great but doesn’t necessarily carry with it specific meaning, thus it has become a fancy word that people use when are talking about change. But it’s much more than that.
From an International Development perspective, we talk about transformation in the lives of those living in poverty and it is helpful to define what that actually is. It is more than just change or transition, it is taking something and creating into something completely different.
Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the goal of development is to transform the lives of those living in poverty, which can bring sickness, hopelessness, and disempowerment, into lives that are highlighted by nutrition and health, a sense of hope and a future, and an empowerment to make decisions of their own behalf.
Transformation is a complete change into something new. Not just a better version of what was, but a brand new thing that didn’t exist before.
Now that’s a lofty goal, and one worth striving for.
Some things can be measured easily. When there are numerical values involved it is simple to compare. Like the size of your bank balance today compared to last week, you can tell the difference just by looking at it.
But measuring someone’s personal growth for example, when the indicators are not as tangible, and it requires some sort of gut feel, can be a little difficult.
It’s the same situation when we measure people’s journey out of poverty. Opportunity International provides small loans to mothers living in poverty and we measure the impact that has on the women and their family over time. The amount of money they earn is one indicator that can show they are leaving poverty behind, but there are so many other elements, like nutrition, sanitation, education, access to information and how hopeful they feel.
Some of this can be measured numerically, and some can’t. Not all elements improve at the same rate or at the same time, so how do you measure the impact?
Often it comes down to the individual. When they recognise they have the ability to make decisions on their own behalf, decisions that can change the lives of them and their families, this shows a level of empowerment which usually means they other elements are improving as well.
People are complex and cannot be measured by numerical values alone to discover what growth is happening.
How are you empowering those around you?
Often people will ask me what the best way is to raise money for their good cause.
I’ve been working with not-for-profits for 20 years and have seen countless numbers of fundraisers – some which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and others which raised less than one hundred.
Whilst there is no secret to success, there are two things which are very helpful when holding an event of fundraiser.
Firstly, be persistent. Persistence is the outworking of passion. If you are passionate about something then you will be persistent in what you do. Just because you have asked someone to attend or donate or sign a petition once, it doesn’t mean that they are aware or fully understand what you are trying to do.
Secondly, be very clear with what you are asking. If you want someone to attend an event, tell them that is what you want them to do. If you want them to donate, make sure they know that, and how they can do that. If you want someone to sign a petition, make sure they know how and where and why.
When you are persistent and clear, it invites people to enter in and participate in what you are trying to achieve. When they say yes, they know what they are saying yes to, or if they say no, it is an educated no which is worthy of respect and allows you to move on to the next person.
It can be overwhelming. The reality of all the need in the world can be too much for us at times to know where to start, and we can find ourselves frozen in inaction, not knowing what to do.
I have always been encouraged by the story of David as he encountered Goliath. You might know it well. At a time when God’s people were overcome by the size of the enemy in front of them, God found them a hero. A kid from the farm who had no discernible attributes that would bring victory on the battlefield. There was nothing conventional about David and the way that he approached the giant that everyone else was afraid of. The armour didn’t fit, his background didn’t fit and more surprisingly, his level of faith didn’t fit that of the experienced soldiers around him.
He approached the situation with an understanding that the God he served was so much bigger than the giant problem before him. And so he stepped up – and won the battle.
If ever we need a remedy to inaction, this is it. If we can shift our focus from the problem in front of us, no matter how big it seems, to the God we serve that is the change of perspective required which can allow us to take the first step and leave inaction behind.