Is it still confronting?

squatter slums

I’ve been asked pretty much the same question in a variety of ways over the last couple of years. Does it still affect you? Do you still find poverty confronting? Do you get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty?

My job as a Relationship Manager with Compassion Australia occasionally takes me overseas to see our work on the field. On those visits I not only visit the local churches that partner with Compassion, I get to visit some of the homes where those being sponsored live. I’ve recently returned home from another one of those visits and met with people who have been given enormous hope despite their poverty.

Yes, it’s still confronting, maybe not as surprising as it once was but completely confronting. No I don’t get used to seeing people living in extreme poverty. Yes, it still affects me deeply. When any of those answers change I’ll find a new job.

Click on the photo above to get a closer look at just one very small part of a squatter slum in Manila in the Philippines that I visited. You can see dozens of makeshift homes, mostly single room dwellings made out of whatever materials can be found, all perched precariously above an open canal filled with raw sewage. When the floods come, that canal swells and pushes its vile contents chest deep into the homes in the surrounding area. Locals told us that several of those communities have been destroyed by fire multiple times. The poor have no option but to clear away the ashes and begin again.

How can it not be confronting to see precious children and their families living in such terrible conditions?

These are people created in the image of God, being forced to live in cramped, unsafe circumstances. Poverty ties their hands. They have no choices. No way to lift themselves and their families out of their situations. Poverty tells them this is all they can ever expect.

It’s more than confronting. It’s unacceptable.

I find it completely unacceptable that in a day and age when we have every resource we need to turn poverty on its head, there is still such a gap between the excess we experience and the complete lack of resources experienced by many, many millions around our world.

Some would throw their hands up and say that that’s the way it will always be and I would challenge them to think again. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in extreme poverty around the world, which tells us we can make a difference, but the statistics are still alarming. There’s still much to be done and it won’t be done unless we all play our part in bringing about change.

So yes, it’s still confronting. It’s still unacceptable. It’s still something I want to spend my life changing in whatever way I can. I know that I can only play a very small part in bringing about change but I’ve seen enough to know that small change isn’t insignificant change.

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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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  • Hey Rodney, first of all, thank you for taking the time to comment over on my blog, twice!

    I have had the opportunity to go on two Compassion trips so far, one to Mexico and one to Colombia. And I have taken time to read many books on the subject of global poverty over the last few years. Looking at the problem as a whole is overwhelming. But this is where Compassion allows us to be a small part of that positive movement which I am so thankful to be a part of.

    Each event that I volunteer at fills me with hope that there are more people out there who want to make a difference, and they want to involve their families.

    • Thanks for dropping in, Yvonne.

      So good to hear of your experience on Compassion trips and your desire to know more about how we can reduce extreme poverty.

      From time to time I try to discover a bunch of great blogs that I haven’t read before. I found your blog and added it to my ‘Feedly’ feed so that I can follow your posts. I really enjoy reading what you have to share.

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