As a Christian, when I think about poverty, my first thought is the realisation there is something lacking – whether it be food, shelter, education or faith. The world regards having enough to eat, access to clean water, a roof over one’s head, as well as being able to read and write, fundamental to human survival. That’s basic human rights.
As one enjoys the privileges many families around the world still do not have, it is also important to remember we ought to share what we have been blessed with. In Australia, we often take for granted that most of us rarely struggle to find our next meal, unlike the 795 million malnourished people around the world.
I believe Opportunity International Australia lends much more than small loans to build income-producing businesses. Opportunity give families the means and skills to work their own way out of poverty and it provides families with hope. Hope they can break the cycle of poverty themselves.
Children growing up in families with low literacy, scarce food and unemployment have little hope for the future other than continuation of the poverty cycle. Through no fault of their own, children are often the face of the struggle to attain hope, to survive. When parents borrow small amounts from Opportunity to build businesses, they invest the income in their children’s education, furthering the growth of human capital and ultimately giving families hope of a better future. Having hope helps families grow self-respect and dignity, both vital for a thriving life.
I read the remarkable story of Amina Mendez Acosta, the daughter of Opportunity’s loan recipient Remy Mendez in the Philippines. It’s incredible to hear such an inspiring story of how she had the opportunity to work in the United States after graduating first in her maths class at a university in Ohio, USA , but chose to return home to the Philippines to help her family and community.
Amina is right when she recognises that having the skills and tools to earn the income, buy nutritious food and send children to school is important to escape poverty, but also spiritual poverty is something that can only be filled through Jesus. She says: “Having seen poverty first hand, there is a material poverty but also a deeper poverty of the spirit.”
It’s often very easy for us in the Western world to be content with what we have and to not care enough about those in poverty. Or when we do help families living in poverty – only think of the individual’s physical needs. But as Amina correctly recounts: “It was one thing to be successful and to gain a diploma, but my relationship with Christ and the story of being saved give me a higher purpose to aspire to.”
Giving a hand-up to struggling families in developing countries is something Opportunity excels at through microfinance, but what is even better is that it’s rooted in the Christian foundation of loving one another and being compassionate.
As Amina’s story reminds me that we have a need for a higher purpose, let us not forget the needs of others in poverty whether it be for food, housing, education, employment and spiritual fulfillment.
Read more about Amina’s story at Opportunity International Australia