How desperate are you to see an end to poverty? We have the means to do it but do we have the will?
In April this year I saw the frustration of extreme poverty boiling over into violence. I was in Haiti, the least-developed country in the Americas where 80% of the population is estimated to be living in poverty. Haiti now ranks 146th of 177 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index (2006).
I was there with other Australian radio broadcasters to see the work of Compassion Australia. We had planned to be in the country for around a week to visit a number of projects but just a day after we arrived riots took hold in Port-au-Prince our hosts felt it would be safer for us to leave as soon as we could.
Our team managed to get out of Haiti under some extremely trying circumstances. It was very difficult getting to the airport and at times we were in very real danger. We had to dodge barricades of burning car tyres and rioting mobs. We were finally led to some armed police who escorted us to the airport.
When our plane finally left the ground I was filled with a mix of emotions. As I looked out the window at the dozens of fires around the small nation’s capital I was relieved that for us the danger had passed but I couldn’t help think about the millions of people we left behind who couldn’t afford to put food on the table for their families. Many people were actually eating dirt to try and survive. I remembered looking into the faces of the children within Compassion projects and seeing a hope for the future and contrasting those faces with those outside those projects, like the children who ran past our vehicles with fear in their eyes as they fled the riots.
The riots were about the lack of food in Haiti and the incredible price rises which had put even basic food items out of reach for the majority of the population. The people of Haiti just wanted the government to take their plight seriously and to do something to save the lives of their families who were literally starving to death.
Faced with the enormity of the situation the Haitian people took extreme action. Back home we complain that the world financial crisis makes it tougher to buy the stuff we feel we deserve. In countries like Haiti all they want is for those of us who really have more than enough, financial crisis or not, and have the capacity to make a difference, to realise that we still have the power to make an enormous dent in the problem of poverty.
Since my visit things have become even harder for the people of Haiti with recent storms destroying life and property.
If you feel that poverty is too big to tackle can I encourage you to sponsor a child in Haiti or another developing country? I’ve seen the difference it can make. You may only be able to make a difference for just one child but imagine if it were your own child. Wouldn’t you want someone to make the difference for just that one?
If you’d like to hear a radio report I compiled for Compassion Day after returning from Haiti just click the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post. The audio begins with the delightful voices of dozens of Haitian children from the one Compassion project we were able to visit before our trip was cut short.