How Can I Help People in Poverty? There Are Many Ways


SEATTLE — Most people might be surprised that world poverty, according to the United Nations, could be eliminated if $30 billion a year were contributed to people in need, without interference. It’s hard to imagine one billion, let alone $30 billion. Yet, the United States spends more than $600 billion a year on military/defense.

These numbers seem overwhelming. “How can I help people in poverty,” one might ask. Well, consider that the United States economy is not the world’s economy. Certainly, the U.S. Economy has a strong role in how markets and money flow in the world. Depending on where one travels in the world, a United States dollar may be worth thousands in local currency. For example, one dollar is equal to 64.130 Indian rupees, or 109 Japanese yen, 17.73 Argentinean Pesos, or 17.83 Mexican pesos.

So a villager in India (a majority of the population lives in rural areas) could feed and clothe a family on $2 a day. Most live in their own homes, passed down through generations. Someone who lives in Mumbai, however, would spend his or her entire income to own a home. Because of the difference in the cost of living, the government uses a flexible poverty line.

A $60 donation to a rural Indian family would be equal to two months’ pay. This is a relatively small amount to the average American, but in India, while it isn’t a life-changing amount, it would be a nice sum to receive. Since contaminated water is a problem, that amount would allow a family to buy three LifeStraw filters.

Billions of people live on less than $2 a day. So looking at this gives a different perspective on donating. Lots of people feel powerless, or feel it is futile to help eliminate global poverty. What may be a very small amount here can provide big changes elsewhere. There are 323.1 million people in the United States. What if all those people gave $1 just on one day? There would be $323.1 million that could be contributed to global poverty. Assuming that everyone in the United States could give $1 a day, it would take 93 days to end global poverty for one year.

There is power in numbers, but more importantly, power in people. How can I help people in poverty? Here are some things to do:

  • Take spare change and put it into a container. When it’s full, donate it to organizations that help fight global poverty.
  • Look on the internet for organizations/groups that fight poverty. Check carefully to see how much of donations go to people who need them, and how much goes to operating costs. Consider donating to them, or volunteering.
  • Make an anti-poverty program a part of a school curriculum. It could be a class or grade project, or the entire school could participate.
  • Hold raffles. Ask local businesses (target small/local businesses) for donations and hold a raffle of those items.
  • Hold a yard sale and donate the proceeds to a poverty fighting group.
  • Hold a bake sale at a school or church.
  • Organize local artisans/craftspeople and showcase their items during a sale. Ask that vendors donate a portion of their proceeds towards an organization that fights poverty.
  • Pack lunches for a week and take the money normally spent on bought food and donate it.
  • Shop at stores that import products made by workers in other countries. Many major cities and smaller communities¬†have stores that feature items made by those in developing nations.
  • Share the good news! While there are still a lot of people living in extreme poverty, the number has been dropping. And it has been falling for the past 200 years.

In 1990, an economist named Martin Ravallion came up with the $2 a day poverty guideline. The 15 countries with the highest numbers of poor people include India, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh, DR Congo, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya, Philippines, Mozambique, Uganda and Malawi.

How can I help people in poverty? For more inspiration, read Clint Borgen’s story.

Gloria Diaz
Photo: Flickr


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