Is any presidential candidate talking about the poor? Did I miss it? Do you see the poor? Do you notice them? They see you! And, yes they are all around us and in every city. Why is ignoring our poor the status quo? How can we be one of the most developed countries in the world and continue to have a poverty problem? Believe it or not, our poverty stats have not really changed since our economical collapse in 2008. Yes, sadly they are about the same! The attached chart shows the dips and stagnant lines from 1959 to 2014.
UNICEF posts on May 11, 2015, that one billion people in the world suffer from chronic hunger with 2/3 of them living in Asia. Since the famine, five years ago, over 308,000 children are malnourished in Somalia (photo) with nearly 56,000 seriously malnourished. Lack of clean water, poor sanitation and high unemployment are common in many villages and communities.
And, here are some additional stats from: http://www.statisticbrain.com/world-poverty-statistics/ Questions: How many people globally are living in poverty? Ratio of wealthy people to poor poverty people living below poverty line?
Global: 50% of the world population is living on less than $2.50 a day.
Global: 1.4 M children die yearly from unsafe drinking water
Home: Number of homeless American people 1,750,000
Home: Percent of homeless that are vets is 40%
Home: Number of Americans who don’t have enough to eat 31M
Home: Annual children’s food stamp recipients 9,300,000
Home: 30% have been homeless for more than 2 years.
Maxwell Strachan posted on 9/17/2013, in the business section, of the Huffington Post, that America’s Poverty Rate was stuck at 15% for the U.S. for a second straight year. That rate was the same as in 2012, as roughly 46.5 million people were living at or below the poverty line, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. The Associated Press reported,” It was the sixth straight year that the poverty rate had failed to improve, hurt by persistently high levels of unemployment after the housing bust.”
A year later in 2014, 46.7 million people in the United States still lived in poverty. Neither the number of people living in poverty nor the poverty rate were statistically different from the 2013 estimates. Many charities seem to focus on global help while at home our poor are going to bed hungry. Are we doing enough at home? Obviously not. But firstly, let’s look at global hunger and global relief!
Even though, the established charities still mostly raise monetary funds, it’s interesting to see a new way of helping. There is a new willingness to volunteer and donate actual goods as with building materials, educational and health supplies, agriculture and animal stock. Are goods easier to track than cash? Are the variables the same? Surprisingly whether you’re delivering cash or goods you will still face the same hurdles, from corruption, to clearances, to foreign restrictions and regulations, and an array of logistics. I was astonished at the many Disaster Relief Logistics companies! Even FEMA, the RED CROSS and the US Military use them! I can only imagine the maze of international relations when it comes to global humanitarian efforts. Some even say that hunger is a logistics issue! Isn’t that eye opening? Supply chain expert, Esther Ndichu, born and raised in Kenya, explains it best here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXlMn3WGHkE
Ndichu makes a good case for hunger as a logistics issue and she is certain that we can feed all the 800 million hungry people. She insists that the problem isn’t the lack of food but getting the food to the hungry. Horribly, 1/3 of the food in the world is wasted. In India 30% of the food rots before it gets to the poor because they lack proper transportation and refrigeration. Furthermore, in Kenya, lack of proper storage facilities rots most of the harvest when it’s not eaten by insects and mold. Is there a hidden simpler solution to hunger here? Fix the supply chain and get rid of hunger!
Is foreign aid a waste? I don’t think so. I have seen many international charities, at work, in many countries and they do make a tremendous difference. From UNICEF, to the non-profit faith organizations, to the Red Cross, to Heifer, to the Gates Foundation. I’m sure some relief is sometimes halted by corruption, clearances or red tape. But most of it does get to the desperate communities. Obviously, before you donate you should check each organization and ensure that all monies and aid is getting to its intended destination. With the internet, at one point or another, tarnishing posts have plagued each of the charitable organizations. Did disaster relief get to the intended victims? Did they get it in time? Maybe the blame is in logistics!
Globally many think poverty is increasing around the world. But in fact things are getting better, according to Bill and Melinda Gates in a Jan 21, 2014, interview with WSJ’s Gary Rosen. They are optimistic about the international efforts. They share that many people think poverty is increasing around the world while in fact things are improving almost everywhere. That’s reassuring to know.
Of all the humanitarians out there, I tend to believe Bill and Melinda Gates. They have gone to the most destitute rural underdeveloped places on the globe. “Only 2% of humanitarian giving is sometimes misdirected. International aid is effective overall; “health and agriculture efforts allow farming to free up labor for other activities,” volunteers Bill Gates. Melinda insists that education is key to improve the lives of women and children around the world. On the issue of contraceptives, even though polarizing, she affirms it “You can lift families by educating women. Globally 200 Million women would like to have access to contraceptives. That will naturally bring down the population bubble.” It has been reported that in some rural depressed communities women have walked miles just to get to a clinic and get a contraceptive shot.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works with governmental programs around the world. On the health front, a simple solution such as supplying bed nets has reduced malaria while availing vaccines has been effective in preventing many diseases that could have exploded in epidemics. Their foundation has been gathering scientists since 99 and focusing on issues of health and clean water. On the delivery and the effectiveness of international aid, Melinda Gates shares, “Of course there is no perfect record, the delivery is as important as the science.” I agree with that because dealing with remote communities at the far end of this universe has its own vectors. It’s great to get supplies and aid to them but what happens when you do? “Can you get a poor woman in a remote rural community to accept polio drops in her child’s mouth?”
It’s cool to witness Melinda’s engagement when she shares how a shy Tanzania little girl asked her for her REI headlamp to study at night. More in video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BKaha9ZeZk I hope Bill and Melinda Gates are correct with their predictions of ‘no poor countries in the next 20 years’. Their foundation has multi sectors that help domestically in the United States especially in education.
Humanitarian aids that think outside the box and offer communities a way to sustain themselves have an interesting perspective. Heifer International’s motto is to be commended! Helping the people to help themselves and find a sustainable way of life! http://www.heifer.org Since 1940, they have been gifting agriculture and animal stock to offer a sustainable livelihood. Of course some have criticized Heifer by saying gifting animal stock isn’t without its own limitations. They attribute possible development of milk intolerance, and added strain, on local poor communities, especially in arid locations to feeding the animals. Some have provided images of starving cows in remote locations. No matter what is said, most of their attempts have improved social conditions in tons of communities and have provided a long lasting change for the better. As I understand they tailor their gifting to the communities and sometimes even facilitate small business loans. Their motto is to help the community lift out of poverty with a plan not just a handout.
All humanitarian organizations who continue to tailor their mode of giving should be commended as they are making a difference. From donating solar lights, to water filters, to bicycles in Congo, as creative cargo vehicles, to clever storage containers to safeguard harvests in Kenya. It is so wonderful creative problem solving like that and witness pilot tests with organizations like www.FreeFromHarm.org and www.TreesThatFeed.org. I’m sure there are others. It’s so interesting to read about the efforts to avail sustainable plant-based feeding and farming solutions. Here’s an example: http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/breadfruit-trees-are-trees-feed-and-create-jobs-jamaica.html
“When day laborers become breadfruit producers they own their lives. We’re creating entrepreneurs, and helping people at the bottom of the economic ladder. After Haiti was rocked by and earthquake in 2010 the Trees That Feed Foundation saw a need and an opportunity to expand their work. They have planted over two thousand trees in Haiti. The trees are a mixture of mangos, avocados, breadfruit and pomegranates.”
Meds & Food for Kids, a foundation founded by Dr. Patricia Wolf a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University’s School of Medicine, was in response to her frustration of watching malnourished Haitian children die. The foundation has been training farmers to produce and distribute highly nutritious foods such as peanut butter. In 2012, MFK opened a new state-of-the art factory just outside of Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, with the capacity to treat 80,000 children per year.
Most people believe that the Red Cross is a medical relief organization, but it isn’t. They do employ doctors and have volunteer medical staff but they are essentially a first on scene emergency relief and triage organization. Since 1881, they have been providing emergency assistance and disaster relief focusing on food, shelter and blood donations. Even though the Red Cross trains millions in first aid emergency response and is the largest supplier of blood products with revenue over 6billion, there was a need for surgical and medical relief teams. Teams that can be deployed to wherever the disaster hits and create, on the spot, operating rooms. In 1971, two of their volunteer French doctors, Max Recamier and Bernard Kouchner, saw that need and created the famed Doctors Without Borders organization, a medical humanitarian relief that would ignore political and religious boundaries and focus on war surgery, relief triage, public health and education. ‘Medecins Sans Frontieres’ translates the organization’s namesake. In 1979, Recamier and Kouchner left and started their own organization but their work continued and since 1980, MSF has tread over 100M patients in the most disaster stricken places. They were offered and deserved the Nobel Prize in 1999.
Another pilot program with Three Angels Relief has created a fruit tree nursery and a program where families are taught how to care for trees, harvest, prepare, dry and mill flour. These foundations don’t stop there, they continue their help by providing families micro-loans that will allow them to sustain a business by marketing their harvest. The idea of creating a food system that a depressed community can control and rely on seems to be a no fail effort as it reduces dependency on imported grains and constant international aid. Is it corruption proof? Is it fail proof? I don’t know. I’m sure some people would find something negative to say about these efforts too. Again, nothing is 100% fail proof. But, the attempts at making a true difference in poverty is there and many communities are happy with it. Is there a lesson here for us?
The creative global restructuring of giving, to make it more effective, brings me to the poverty issue in the United States. I should note that the US spends only about 1% of budget in global aid while other countries spend around 3%. So, nothing really is taking away from the giving at home! But one wonders why relief is not reaching our poor! The supply chain in our country is free and clear. We have an abundance of food and state of the art storage and refrigeration facilities. So, there should be no broken supply links. The food is available and should get to the hungry. Hopefully the next presidential debate will open dialogue about our stagnant poverty rate and will offer real solutions and real accountability. We have all the programs, in place, to care and help our poor, both on the federal and the state level. These programs have been in place for decades, from shelter and food, to unemployment benefits, to food stamps, to free healthcare, to welfare. There is no justification for the United States to have a homeless problem nor a hunger issue. There is no justification for our returning veterans to wait months to see a doctor!
Here’s an idea! What would happen if all our homeless, unemployed and hungry decided to live at the police stations instead of the street corners? Would the immediacy be more evident? Is it a question of institutional housecleaning? Did mounds of paperwork and forms suffocate our local programs? Did red tape break the supply chain between our programs and our poor?
Many social advocates and economists offer viable ways to deal with poverty but their views don’t seem to get that much media attention. If creative global humanitarian efforts, are lifting the poor by helping them find a sustainable way of life, why can’t we? Is there a way to reform one of our subsidy programs to make it help people find a sustainable life? Welfare was once celebrated as a keystone of post-war Britain, but state benefits are now accused of fostering a dependency mindset that traps people. With cuts in public spending looming, lack of jobs and our returning Vets, more people are likely to need state support. What should we do? Should we focus on cash for those who need it, or more intensive intervention to get people working? The jury is out on whether welfare is a Band-Aid, an addiction or a way out of poverty. Some say it enables people to remain in poverty while others say that without it poverty will skyrocket. Many successful people admit to have been on welfare, at one point in their lives, and they appreciated the helping hand. Maybe all we need is some reform and possibly more accountability. And, this brings me to Calvin Helin.
Author and activist Calvin Helin has a strong stand on welfare and he sees it as a trap. He includes it in the title of one of his “Dances with Dependency” series, “The Economic Dependency Trap; Breaking Free to Self-Reliance”. Helin isn’t bashful about his views, he offers a bold perspective on welfare, self-entitlement and a way out of poverty. He basically tells us all, including his own Aboriginal people, to ‘Just Do It’ and create our own route out of poverty. His bold study of poverty, the welfare systems in both Canada and the United States are a blue print into self-reliance. It’s no surprise that his books are becoming essential reading for educators, community organizers, and others who work for social reform, as well as for pundits and policymakers.
Helin’s words are a wakeup call as we welcome a new year! Homelessness is still around us and sadly many of our homeless are veterans! It’s just tragic for our poverty rate to remain the same! With the war and our uncertain times, stats are bound to spike negatively and we shouldn’t let that happen. Maybe the elections will be a platform for new changes that can make a difference and help the poor in our communities. It is a shame with all the programs that are in place. Maybe the presidential debates will address how and when poverty will be eradicated. “I have dedicated my life to helping people escape from poverty. With knowledge and hard work you can be the master of your own successful future based on self-reliance and self-responsibility. While such insights must be accompanied by a practical plan of action, it’s time in my Native American language to Wai Wah!-Just Do It,” Helin admits
Book One in Helin’s series, “Dances with Dependency,” offers effective strategies to eliminate welfare dependency and help eradicate poverty among indigenous populations. Beginning with an impassioned insightful portrait of today’s native communities, it connects the prevailing impoverishment and despair directly to a dependency mindset and to welfare. He advocates welfare reform and a return to his native people’s 10,000–year tradition of self-reliance based on personal responsibility. Helin, ignores all political correctness and describes the crisis as an impending demographic tsunami threatening both for the United States and Canada. Helin blames US government entitlement programs for a stagnant mindset. He calls for more scrutiny especially with our huge national debt, and more individual accountability. He does offer a sensible way to reform it all. That might be what we need!
It’s not surprising that Calvin Helin’s, The Economic Dependency Trap was recognized in the ‘Self-Help General’ category, has received many awards and rave reviews. “Calvin Helin’s Dances with Dependency series of books are a wake-up call to his fellow Aboriginal people! Wider society should take this courageous man’s convictions very seriously,” shares Michael Adams, President, Environics Research Group.
Studies of welfare effectiveness and suggestions on how to improve it are nothing new. A study of the mindset of people on welfare is. Helping them out of it with a plan and not a handout is! It’s wonderful to see that Helin’s books are getting noticed. It’s interesting to also note that back in 1995, Marvin Olasky, asked similar questions to Helin’s, with his book, The Tragedy of American Compassion. Does the Welfare State Reduce Poverty and Inequality or Encourage Dependency? He lived as a homeless man, on the streets of Washington, to test his theories about welfare and ‘giving in the way that is effective’. He shares about his stint at the CCVV shelter, “I was just asked my name and I was never asked to do anything! I was given things, lots was available, drugs, food, clothing, shelter, no questions were asked. People were treated essentially like animals.” The irony is that when Olasky’s book first came out, critics basically found no practical applications to what he was saying. Well, the critics should revise their views as we’re still looking at the same social problems.
Local and international humanitarian efforts will be here long after I’m gone and I’m happy with that. Maybe we should learn from the international humanitarian efforts and change our local relief effort. Erasing hunger in our communities should be a possibility and should not be hitting any roadblocks. We are certainly not dealing with any logistics issues. Presently, about 20% of the population relies on the government for daily housing, food and health care, and one in six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program (USA Today). Most troubling of all, one out of every five children in the US is now living in poverty (US Census). Hopefully we’ll figure out more effective and sustainable ways to help our communities. Paying it forward is always as cool as being on the receiving end. Maybe one day, we will eradicate poverty. And, maybe poverty will be something that historians reference and not a reality that economists study.