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Poverty Alleviation

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									Exercise C:                   Poverty Alleviation
1. Naming
Brainstorm a list of say eight countries, including some rich and poor countries.
Use the Human Development Report (http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2004/pdf/hdr04_HDI.pdf) to
collect statistics and fill out the table.

  Name of          Access to          Literacy           Life               Infant        Immunisation
  country          safe water           rates         expectancy           mortality

Order them from richest to poorest.
Use the statistics to describe what life might be like in one of the countries.

2. Critical Reflection

Read the Country Profile on the website of the country
(http://www.globaleducation.edna.edu.au/globaled/go/pid/37) and compare it to your description.
           Ø How do statistics represent a country?
           Ø What insight do statistics give to life in a particular country?
                                                          Adapted from AusAID Global Education Website

Check out these websites for a powerpoint presentation of info on international and Australian
www.antipovertyweek.org.au/Oxfam Community Aid Abroad PPT.ppt
www.antipovertyweek.org.au/UCA National Snapshot of Poverty PPT.ppt

For Upper Secondary students, an activity on defining poverty can be found at

3. Christian Story and Vision

Students read Mk. 12:38 – 13:2
Mk 12:41-44 has long been superficially understood as a story about generosity—the widow giving her
all from her poverty while the scribes, having more, have been less generous because they gave of
their abundance. The meaning or exhortation for us from this ‘reading’ of the passage is to be more
generous, as the widow is generous. A deeper reading reveals something else about poverty and its

Firstly, dropping the verse and chapter numbers (which did not exist in the original writing) helps us put
the story in its context. Note that before the widow’s-offering story, Jesus roundly condemns the
scribes for, among other things, “devouring widows houses.” (vs.38-40) Then after the story, Jesus, in
response to the disciples’ admiration of the Temple, suggests that this institution will be destroyed. (Ch.

Now invite students to read very carefully vs.43-44… Now ask, what does it say about what Jesus
thinks about the situation described in the story? … Nowhere does it say that Jesus thinks that the
widow’s offering everything out of her poverty is a good thing! Jesus does not make any qualitative
statement—he doesn’t let us know how he feels or what he thinks about this situation. Jesus makes
only quantitative statements, contrasting the widow’s contribution with that of the rich. If we are to be
honest about our reading of this passage we have to acknowledge that Jesus is not praising the
situation of the widow. The reality was that the widow had given all of her possessions to the scribes,
as alluded to in verse 40, but that is not a good thing, and the scribes are to be condemned.

Women in 1st Century Palestine weren’t considered dependable enough to look after money and so
when their husbands died their possessions were taken over by the scribes, the trusted guardians of
the Temple. In this way the Temple, and its beneficiaries, the scribes among them, became wealthy
while widows remained poor.

How then should we understand this passage? The clue to what Jesus thinks about the situation lies in
the introduction and conclusion to the story – Jesus’ condemnation of both the scribes and the
institution of the Temple, both of which keep widows poor. We can conclude that what Jesus wants to
convey through his observations is not that we need to be more generous but that individuals in power
and institutions which keep people poor ought to be condemned and the poor ought not to be required
to give “all they have to live on” to support corrupt and unjust institutions.

4. Integration
 “Poverty is the result neither of an elite conspiracy theory nor of the supposed laziness and lack of
inability or ambition of those in poverty… Poverty is the result of many social, economic and political
structures working the way they do at present. Eradicating it is entirely possible because it is ultimately
the product of human hands, minds and hearts.”
          ‘A New Beginning – Eradicating Poverty in Our World’, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
                                                                             Pastoral Statement 1996, p.12

What causes poverty today? Is it bad luck or laziness on the part of individuals? Or is it due to the way
society is ordered? What are the unjust institutions in our society? How are we part of them? What are
people’s experiences at the hands of them? Why are things the way they are? Who is deciding that it
should be that way?

Facilitate a social analysis with students to look at and understand the structural causes of poverty.
Resources for doing structural analysis can be found in Holland & Henriot, Social Analysis: linking faith
and justice (Orbis, 1982, 1990)

5. Responding
Given that poverty is affects a large number of the world’s population and the causes of poverty are
mainly structural, what can students do to reduce poverty? Here are some options for involvement.
Students can look up any of these initiatives to discover how they propose to alleviate poverty and
perhaps participate in what the initiatives propose.

Anti poverty week www.antipovertyweek.org.au The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to:

   •   strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship
       around the world and in Australia;
   •   encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by
       individuals, communities, organisations and governments.
Millennium Development goals www.un.org/millenniumgoals List of goals targets and

   •   Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
   •   Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
   •   Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
   •   Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
   •   Goal 5: Improve maternal health
   •   Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
   •   Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
   •   Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Mica Challenge www.micahchallenge.org The Micah Challenge is..a global Christian campaign
that: challenges us to deepen our engagement with the poor; and challenges leaders to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals, and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015!

The Fair Share campaign www.acfid.asn.au/fairshare.htm
Australian aid agencies call on our Government
to do our fair share
for the world’s poor
to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
to halve global poverty by 2015

MUGGED: poverty in your coffee cup

Summary of the Mugged project:

There is a crisis destroying the livelihoods of 25 million coffee producers around
the world. The price of coffee has fallen by almost 50 per cent in the past three
years to a 30-year low. Long-term prospects are grim.

Developing-country coffee farmers, mostly poor smallholders, now sell their coffee beans
for much less than they cost to produce - only 60 per cent of production costs in Viet
Nam's Dak Lak Province, for example. Farmers sell at a heavy loss while branded coffee
sells at a hefty profit. The coffee crisis has become a development disaster whose impacts
will be felt for a long time.

Families dependent on the money generated by coffee are pulling their children,
especially girls, out of school. They can no longer afford basic medicines, and are cutting
back on food. Beyond farming families, coffee traders are going out of business. National
economies are suffering and some banks are collapsing. Government funds are being
squeezed dry, putting pressure on health and education and forcing governments further
into debt.

The scale of the solution needs to be commensurate with the scale of the crisis. A Coffee
Rescue Plan, which brings together all the major players in the coffee trade, is needed to
make the coffee market benefit the poor as well as the rich. This is about more than
coffee. It is a key element in the global challenge to make trade fair.
PALMS Australia is dedicated to participating in and developing networks that link and
engage people across cultures in order to cooperate in reducing poverty and achieve a just,
sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world. PALMS seeks to build the capacity of
individuals and strengthen institutions through the exchange of knowledge and skills between
PALMS volunteers and partner communities. Students can support PALMS volunteers who
are involved in poverty reduction. The CommUnity Initiative of PALMS offers avenues of
communication and awareness raising through volunteers working in developing countries
individual students or a whole school can participate in CommUnity and thus benefit people
living in poverty, at the same time as benefiting from the contact with them through
newsletters, etc. Contact PALMS Australia, www.palms.org.au

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