Violent Poverty – Blog Action Day 2008

BlogActionDay.jpgHow 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.


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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • I was in Haiti in 1999 and just this past year. It was nice to see some small improvements, but sad at how much more can and needs to still be done. I also found it is so easy to begin to forget the hardships people face there, once I arrive home. Thank you for sharing this. It has helped me to not forget and to continue to support missionaries and agencies that work in Haiti.

  • I really liked your article on Haiti today. I just want you to know it started a fire of compassion in my own heart to help the people. The main media is not covering the horrible details of what is going on in Haiti.

    Thank you!

  • Jeff, you are so very right. It’s very easy to get home and get wrapped up in the day to day of our lives, forgetting that there are people we have met who still need our help.

  • Earl, I’m glad that my post stirred your heart and I hope that you’re able to visit Compassion’s website to sponsor a child. It really does make such a huge difference. ( )

  • My wife & I sponsor a couple of Compassion children in Africa.

    When I visited one of them I found it one of the most gut wrenching things I’d experienced in my life.

    Her family was so hospitable, even bought me a can of coke which I can’t say I really enjoyed cos I had some idea as to what a luxury item it was for them.

    I’ve seen lots of poverty scenarios in the third world but this one really hit home cos of the relationship built over time by letters.

    Compassion sponsorship is just such a brilliant thing to do to help change our world.

  • I wonder if more of us saw the effects of poverty first hand whether it would increase the will to do something about it. It’s so convenient when it’s “out of sight, out of mind”.

    Great post Rodney. Thanks for sharing.

  • I can relate to your entry, Rodney. Poverty can lead to violence and unfortunately, this is the kind of place I grew up with.

    But my escape was tough, and based on my experience money is ONLY the solution. I believe that by treating each as a member of big family, we can make the difference. We can use technology to guide people how to survive.

    In the end, it is good to give fish to the hungry but I think it is better if we teach them how to catch fish.


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