Poverty is not just physical

by Jennifer Donovan

CompassionWhen we think of poverty, we think of the physical side: poor water quality, inadequate healthcare, malnutrition, substandard housing.

Yes, people living in poverty do suffer physically in many if not all of these ways, certainly in comparison to American standards, but one thing that I had read about Compassion and have now witnessed first hand is that Compassion’s plan is to minister to the whole person.

Today we saw one of the Child Survival Program projects. The child sponsorship that most of us associate with Compassion starts around age four or five (depending on the country). The Child Survival Program exists to provide prenatal care and education to the mothers, as well as health and wellness for the children through age 3.

When we arrived this morning, they were all waiting for us, assembled in the church building. Each pew was filled with mothers balancing adorable toddlers on their knees, or trying to keep them from straying too far as they stretched their little legs. They began their workshop with a psalm, a prayer and some singing. Then the “implementer” (basically a case worker) led an informational session on nutrition. The moms were told what to do if their child didn’t want to eat — be more creative and make it more appealing, and encouraged them to begin the day with a healthy breakfast, and avoid excessive fat, or grease as the interpreter kept calling it, reminding them that the “grease in the milk was enough for them each day.” (By the way, Melanie and I were sufficiently reprimanded as well. I wondered aloud if a Pop Tart counted as a healthy breakfast, and she was pretty sure that chicken nuggets were full of “grease.”)

Then we visited some homes with the implementers on one of their twice-monthly visits. The women welcomed us, making sure we each had a seat as we crammed into their tiny living rooms. It was here that I really saw the whole picture. The implementer led the mother in a song, read a passage of scripture, and then discussed with her how it applied to her life. She then reinforced what was taught at the nutrition session, and inquired after the mother’s and the children’s health. She asked what she needed prayer for, and we prayed for the family before we left (A few others wrote about this same visit and have different perspectives and some great photos: Melanie, Brian, and Tim).

I asked the Pastor if there were moms who chose not to participate in the program because they didn’t want to do all of the things that they were asked to do. Without missing a beat, he answered, “Si.” He looked reflective, and explained. “Poverty is not just physical. It’s in the mind, too. When they find out that it’s not just a handout, some people can’t break away from that poor mindset.”

Rosario, one of the moms we visited, didn’t fear much for her present, but she told us that delinquency was high in the community, and she prayed that her children would not fall in with the wrong crowd. Poor choices would put them right back into poverty. It’s not so different than what many of us fear for our own children — that their choices or their peers might corrupt him.

And it makes me realize that while we are rich monetarily, we too can suffer from one of the other types of poverty. We’ve all had times when we’ve been poor in spirit or poorly motivated. And for me when I feel the worst about myself is when I focus on me at the expense of others — my children, my husband, or as I’m coming to see now, the needs of those around the world.

I’m glad that I’m a part of the solution — helping Compassion minister to the needs of the whole person in the two children I sponsor. If you want to be part of the solution, too, sponsor a child now.

Thanks to Keely Scott for the awesome photos.

Please visit my Compassion Trip Page, to see all of my posts from my journey.



Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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