25% of Statistics are Made Up

25% of Statistics are Made up on the spot.

Is that statement true? Maybe, I could be part of the 25% I guess.

Numbers are great. They are logical and clinical.

They also lie, oversimplify and distract.

For example:

  • 1 in 10 people are colour blind
  • 90% of people can see colour just fine

Two messages from the same set of numbers which read very differently. Neither of which is actually true by the way.

We use numbers to draw attention to the significant issues in our world, and even if they are factually correct, it isn’t working. By themselves, numbers don’t work.

I could tell you that Opportunity International Australia is helping over 6 million families to work their way out of poverty through the power of a small loan, or I could tell you about Shoba…

Shoba, a wife and mother in India, was already living in poverty when her husband got sick.

They were unable to afford the medicine for her husband’s condition, so she borrowed from a money lender to get her husband the help he needed.

Sadly, he died.

In time, the money lender came to get what they were owed – which was now significantly more than the amount borrowed. Shoba did not have the money to pay.

The lender took both of her young sons to work off the debt by manual labour at a quarry.

Nobody should have to live like that, facing an impossible decision between critical healthcare and losing children to slave labour.

Shoba heard about the small loans available through Opportunity. She borrowed USD50 and bought some carving tools and supplies. Shoba hand carved wood into elephants which she sold by the roadside.

Using the money she earned to redeem her sons, Shoba was also able repay her Opportunity loan and build a better life for her family.

Breaking the cycle of poverty takes a lot of courage.

Making a donation is the easy part!

Opportunity has six million other stories like that. Stories that say more than statistics ever could, even if they aren’t made up.

Stories with true statistics will tell the whole story.

The Most Underpaid Team Member

The most valuable person in my team is underpaid. In fact, she earns nothing.

The most valuable person in my team is Lorraine.

She volunteers her time each week to make phone calls. Not a cold-call, scam type of phone calls. But in a ‘thank you for donating and making a difference’ type of way.

Each week, she gives up her time to go through the list of people who gave over the last 7 days and calls them simply to say ‘thanks’. That’s it.

And the response?

People love it. They truly value being thanked for doing something great. I have had many people let me know that they got a call from her and they really enjoyed it. I have had people give more often after getting a call from her. Maybe they felt so good about being thanked that they gave again. Maybe they just wanted to speak to Lorraine again. Whatever the reason, I know that Lorraine is the most valuable part of my team because she is at the forefront of caring for those who are using their generosity to end poverty, one family and one community at a time through the work of Opportunity.

No doubt, she needs a pay rise.

I’m Not Asking for Your Money

I work for a charity and meet with people who donate significant amounts, but I don’t ask them to give money.

I used to do that, and it felt wrong. I felt like I was apologising every time I wanted to meet with them and that they thought I only wanted something from them…which was kind of true – their money.

I got tired of that feeling and of asking people to give money, so I decided to try something else.

Instead of asking people to give, I now invite people to fulfil their purpose through generosity. By giving money to Opportunity, an organisation that they are passionate about, our supporters are finding a way to fulfil their purpose.

They are bringing dignity to those living in poverty.

They are giving back some of what they have received.

They are living out their values.

They are showing care and concern for their fellow human beings.

They are releasing the hold that money can have on those who have it.

They are being generous and reaping the rewards that generosity bring.

So I don’t ask for money. I offer a pathway to purpose.

Why People Give

“When you give to charities, what outcome are you looking to achieve?”

This is the most common question I get to ask people who support Opportunity. It’s important to find out what motivates them to give, mostly so that we can achieve the kind if impact they are looking for.

Often, the answer I get is “I want to make a positive difference”, and after further discussion they tell me about how someone helped them early in their life. So, they give to pass it on and help someone work their way out of poverty.

For many Opportunity supporters they see creating businesses as a great way to help people help themselves. A small loan gets given to kick start their journey out of poverty, by creating a small business which provides them an income. They can then put food on the table, send their kids to school, pay the loan back and leave poverty behind.

The types of business the small loans create in places like India and Indonesia are not what you normally think of. There are no ABN’s, no offices, no IT set up, no convoluted distribution channels. It’s more simple than that. You buy items at one price, take it to a market or the side of the road and sell it for a little bit more. You get a loan in the morning and can create an income to buy food that evening.

Whilst it takes time for loan recipients to fully leave poverty behind, a small loan is the injection they need to start that journey.

That’s what making a positive difference looks like.

$160 is enough to help create a small loan – donate here.

Don’t Hit the Traffic Cones

I heard a story of a defensive driving instructor teaching people how to safely navigate obstacles on the road. He set up traffic cones on the roadway they were using and instructed each driver to drive straight towards them, then when they got to a certain point, brake and avoid hitting them.

Every single driver ran into the cones.

He then asked, ‘What are you looking at when you are braking?’

‘The cones’ they all said.

To which he replied, ‘Don’t look at the cones, look at where you want to go’.

Every driver was then able to navigate past the cones without hitting them.

Often, we can get so caught up in what we are trying to avoid that we focus all our attention on that one thing, and keep running into it.

Ending poverty can sometimes feel like that. We know that we want to avoid people suffering in poverty. We don’t want people to go hungry. We don’t want people to get sick and die from easily curable diseases. We don’t want people to fall into generational cycles which traps families in a vulnerable state.

We know what we don’t want, but what do we want instead?

Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen nails it when she says, “The opposite of poverty is not income, it’s dignity.”

So we are not just aiming for everyone to have more dollars in their bank account, that would help, but it is only one part of the process of each human being having dignity. We are aiming for every human to be respected, belong to a community, receive justice and have the capacity to reach their full potential.

Take your eyes off the traffic cones and aim for where you want to go.

One in a Million

‘You are one in a million’ is not as good as it sounds. It’s definitely not as good as it used to be.

It means that there are 7,600 more of you around the world, which doesn’t make you feel as unique. It is possible to meet them.

‘You are one in a billion’ sounds better.

Although that still means there are 7 of you out there.

One in 7.6 billion is the best, although it’s a bit clunky and not as easy to say.

This is one of the downsides to population growth.  

The global population in 1700 was about 600 million people.

By 1800 it had reached around 1 billion.

It had reached 1.6 billion by 1900, 2 billion by 1928, 5 billion by 1987 and 7.9 billion in 2021.

Since 1800 the global population has increased by 700%.

People used to freak out about this and worry about our impending doom as the sheer amount of people would surely overrun the planet, use everything and bring about the end of the world.

Why is no one worried about this now?

Because we have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. When that happens, families have less children because they can be confident that they will survive, they no longer need to think about who will look after them when they get older, and they become more educated about contraception. People’s generosity did this.

At this stage the global population should plateau at around 11 billion in 2100. Crisis just about averted.

Now, on to climate change.

Always Poor

“The poor you will always have with you” – Jesus

Jesus was talking to a room full of people after someone used an expensive item in an extravagant act of gratitude towards him. Some in the room criticised this act, and in their moral superiority suggested a better use of this gift would be to sell it and give the money to the poor. Jesus essentially said, “if God is in your living room, then shower Him with your best. Spend up big on him because it probably won’t happen again. Tomorrow, when God is no longer in your living room, give generously to those who are living in poverty.”

What we think it means…

We take this interaction and think that it means that we don’t need to worry about trying to end poverty, because you can’t. It’s a fool’s errand. People will always be poor; it’s just how thing are. Give up now and save yourself some heartache.

What it actually means…

Aside from the main point of giving your best to God if He is literally sitting right in front of you, Jesus was talking about situational poverty, which is a transitional time that people go through. Life has all sorts of ups and downs and sometimes the downs can put you into a place of poverty for a season, which is when you require generosity from others. Situational poverty is a short term experience.

This is stark contrast to systemic poverty, which is generational in nature and ensures that those who are poor today will also be poor tomorrow – you know, the kind if extreme poverty we see in the world today. Systemic poverty is man-made and exists in the structures we have put into place which, among other things, ensure that those who are vulnerable are the ones that earn less, suffer greater life shocks, and end up living without what they need to flourish. It doesn’t matter what they do, the system is stacked against them and they are unable to work their way out of it. Most are born into it, and some fall into it, but it doesn’t matter how it happened, it doesn’t need to exist and we can end it.

Poverty will always exist, people will fall into poverty through challenging life circumstances, but to think it will always be the same group of people, and their family for generations to come, or that some people should live their entire lives in poverty because of where they were born, is arrogant, ignorant, and wrong.

Fortunately, we have been making some pretty great headway with some smart structures and a bunch of generous people. We know that systemic poverty doesn’t need to exist and that we can end it, one family and one community at a time. We can’t do it without you though.

Donate here

Empowered Mothers are our Ticket out of this Mess

How’s your relationship with your mum?

This is a question fraught with danger.

You might have a great relationship with your mum. You might have an okay relationship. You might have a rocky relationship. You might have none.

You might have had a step-mum instead of, or as well as.

Maybe you’ve lost your mum. Maybe you never knew her.

Or, you might be a mum and love it. You might be a mum and like it. You might be a mum and tolerate it. You might be a mum and hate it…some days.

You might be a step-mum and trying to figure this whole thing out.

You might be expecting and about to become a mum.

Maybe you’ve never been able to become a mum.

Maybe you’ve lost a child.

It’s heavy. Mother’s Day, am I right? It’s a challenge to full encapsulate all if this into one day.

This we know for sure; we wouldn’t be here without mothers. Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. They carry such a burden for their children.

Imagine, as a mother, not being able to feed your kids. Not having some shelter for them.

Having to tell them they need to leave school and work because you don’t have enough money to pay for their education.

But then someone gave you a loan. A small one. Just enough to grow a small business, maybe a small vegetable farm or a tailoring business.

The regular income you earn means you can feed your children consistent, nutritious meals, give them a warm bed with a roof over their heads and a proper education.

You even employ other mothers from your community, giving them an income too.

This is more than receiving money from some unknown person so that you can feed your children, which is disempowering.

It is an opportunity that allows you to take care of your own family. One that you can pay back so that someone else can receive the exact same opportunity. That’s empowerment.

An empowered mother takes care of her family. She makes sure that everyone has enough. She raises kids that are educated and have dreams of what they can achieve in their life. She raises kids that love their family, respect their culture, and give back to their community. She raises the next generation of world leaders.

Empowered mothers are our ticket out of this mess. (‘Mess’ being the issue of global poverty, but also pretty much every other issue we have as a world).

And it all starts with a donation.

Just $100 is enough to provide one small loan to a mother in need in Indonesia or India.

Empowered mothers create a better world.

Generosity is Not About You, But it’s About You

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

– Frederick Douglass

It is generous to help those living in poverty, but not the way that you think.

Outside of the positive impact it creates in overcoming poverty (and the fact that it is the right thing to do), it’s generous to you.

But it’s more than how it makes you feel. It’s more than the health benefits, be they physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual (and it is all those things). It is about the world. Your world.

We are fortunate that there are so many benefits for us when we give. What makes it more extraordinary is that an act of generosity towards a just cause shifts the balance, one step at a time, from oppression towards freedom. It helps to remove the foot of injustice off the neck of those living in poverty, so that they can not only breathe but create a life that provides for their family and improves our world in the process.

We cannot be content with our progress and success at any level when there are those who are unable to meet their basic needs. Until we are able to fix that, ‘neither persons nor property will be safe’. If you want to overcome the problems we have in society, help lift those living in poverty out of that man-made cycle.

What do we do from here?

Make a stand for those suffering injustice. In whatever way that looks for you. Be it donating to an organisation that helps people work their way out of poverty, or finding your way to restore justice so that we can all be safe.

The Entrepreneurial Panic

If you have ever been overcome by the sheer weight of just trying to provide for your family, then you will understand it. The panic that comes when there is not enough to get you through. You can see the end of your financial runway and it is getting closer at a frightening speed.

Entrepreneurs feel this frequently. Many of us have felt it this year, even if we aren’t entrepreneurs, as the reality of financial insecurity hits and all of sudden we start to think of other ideas that could create some extra money. “What can we sell?”

There is a versatility that comes from this. A special ability to adapt and change as the world around you shifts.

I see this in the world’s poorest entrepreneurs. I have always said that if you can survive in a slum in Delhi, India, then you already have some incredible skills which give you an astute business mind. In fact, some of the savviest minds that I have come across are from small business owners in India and Indonesia. They have created something special, seemingly out of nothing, and are forging a path forward for their family – a path out of poverty and into a life that is not defined by trying to find their next meal, or to save enough money to buy medicine for their sick child.

If you place a global pandemic into the mix though, that is obviously going to create further challenges. And it has. The true impact will not be seen for a long time yet and it is so disheartening. But I am confident that these savvy minds will continue to find a way through, though they just need a small amount of help.