Did you know that there are 925 million(almost a billion) throughout the globe, majority of whom are children in South Asia, particularly China and India? Yes folks, the said data was culled out from the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), a large humanitarian organization whose primary goal is to end world hunger. Cool! (that is how young boys and girls in school would utter if they hear great things).
But of all places worldwide, why China and India? Of course, one may be surprised why on earth there are still millions of hungry people in these countries despite their progress in terms of building major national and agricultural infrastructure. We are likewise cognizant of the fact that these countries are the two powerhouses in information technology, being manufacturers and developers of high-tech hardware and software. Most of all, China is one of the biggest creditors of the United States, a developed and industrialized nation! Yet, there are so many people suffering from hunger and malnutrition in the said countries? Hard-core economists would be able to further elucidate on the subject but there is a simple and logical explanation to this. One could be their dense population and another is the wide disparity between their richest and poorest people, among other things (e.g. beliefs, policies and system of government, etc).
Some people would have thought that most of the suffering and impoverished kids would have come from the poorer countries in Africa, especially when recent harrowing images of dying African kids are being shown on the worldwide web. We can hardly see suffering Chinese children being shown on TV, and in other media and online networks, and even in WFP’s website! Why? This is truly mind-boggling!
According to WFP, there is enough food to feed these people but the access of quality food and the means to deliver the same to the undernourished kids’ table is the big problem. Sure, respective Governments of these affected kids are doing their jobs but definitely it is not sufficient or perhaps it is not a priority.
So, how can each one of us help feed these people? The WFP has designed various ways on how to raise funds and acquire donations from the richer nations and other generous individual donors. But they have also other innovative ways whereby ordinary “unmoneyed” people, either in groups or individuals, can participate and donate grains of rice for the poor worldwide. This is neither a joke nor a scam! It comes from a reputable institution, so it could be real and legit!
My Useful Tips, being an advocate for a good and quality life for everyone, has been attracted to it and decided to join the said WFP’s program which is being managed by the FreeRice team. The scheme is not quite easy as there is a need to invest time and sheer talent (and treasure as well because there is a corresponding value for the time spent) in order to produce a grain of rice. Otherwise, it would be a futile exercise on your part if you don’t have both and the willingness (even on your spare time) to do it!
For more than a month, “My Useful Tips” has already donated more than half a million grains of rice for the hungry in developing countries. Said grains of rice can be gained by answering the questions provided in the website under a wide wide range of categories to select from such as Humanities, English (Grammar and Vocabulary), Mathematics/Algebra, Geography, Science (Anatomy), Chemistry, SAT (Entrance Exams), and other Language Learning (Spanish, French, Italian and German). For every correct answer, there is a corresponding 10 grains of rice which will be remitted to your coffers and eventually donated to the hungry in your name. But it is actually the sponsors and advertisers who pay, in your stead, the corresponding amount for the rice gained/donated.
Half a million grains of rice is not bad at all. It may be “small fry” to some people, but to “My Useful Tips” it’s like catching a “big fish” although it is just starting and learning to walk, a baby step! It has learned to enjoy and love exploring the alleys and byways of freerice web place already, i.e., hopping from one category to another! Hopefully, it would be able to deliver thousands of sacks of rice to the poor when time comes. What is good in this is that responding to the trivia questions does not only allow to share one’s time and donate something for the poor but it also stimulates the mind – a fun way of refreshing what one has learned in school, increasing one’s learning curve and improving his/her/their general knowledge on so many things under the sun! But if you have enough “dough” and don’t have the time, opt to share with them and donate your cash online instead.
Based on My Useful Tips experience, helping solve the world’s greatest problem is worth it!
How about you guys? Why don’t you try, join us, “rice up” and have some fun!
"Count your blessings" is an old adage we hear oftentimes from people which most of us can relate to regardless of location, ability, gender and socio-economic status. But how frequent do people count their blessings? Always? Once, twice, thrice a day? We really don't have any idea and there is no way we can quantify it, there is no rule of thumb for this! As long as we are happy and contented despite the lack of resources, that should be the very essence of life. The fact that we are willing to share what we have with the less fortunates, even though how scarce our personal finances are, there is more reason for us to count our blessings. That is truly a blessing in itself….a blessing that we are still "able" and "strong" to lend a helping hand to the impoverished, to the old and indisposed, to children who have been deprived of quality education due to lack of school supplies and other educational related necessities, among others.
When we count our blessings, we forget our failures, shortcomings and wrongdoings, and instead we think and show gratefulness for the good things we've done. Somewhere in the process, we do not only bring joy to other people but we experience likewise a certain feeling of personal satisfaction. We also start to give recognition to the people we love and those around us, thus creating a happy family environment.
I would like to share with you an article forwarded to me by a very dear "kin" who in her early "tweens", has already a passion to help those in need. Instead of celebrating an important occasion with someone special and inviting friends to a party or fine dining, she decided to spend it in "style"! Together with her fellow "nightingales" and friends, they went out of their comfort zones and organized a worthy cause which made the sick and the aged and some unfortunate kids happy. It didn't cost them a lot of money to help these people, but the willingness and the heart to do it and a little help from benefactors made the event a reality and success.
Incidentally, the said activity reminded me of our responsibility, every citizen, to help our respective Governments in our own little way to achieve its plans and programs particularly its Development Goals. My kin's group of young urban professionals initiated this activity on their own volition, giving up a little of their time, luxury and treasure to help the poor. Isn't this one humble and quickest way of helping Governments achieve its goals of helping the poorer sectors of society? I commend you guys. Good job! Keep it up!
The blog episode below is a brief article written by one of my closest allies in the family! (Note: Pictures herein are not for reproduction and are exclusively for my useful tips use only)
“Always count your blessings”
by: Kristine Angela S.A.
A famous saying that all of us should live by. By doing so, it will let us know how fortunate we are and how much our God loves us! After counting our blessings, that’s the time we should start to share. Sharing and giving to our less fortunate brothers is another way of thanking God for the abundant blessings He’s given and will be giving us. It doesn’t matter how much amount you can give, as long as you have the heart and sincerity in giving, it matters more than anything else.
In this connection, Mike and I planned for something different to celebrate our anniversary. Even though our relationship (boyfriend-girlfriend) is relatively new, it has grown and matured in our faith in God. Instead of having the usual dating or going out of town, we opted to share our blessings and do a small charity work in a local orphanage and home for the aged. As soon as we finished inquiring and visiting the sites, I started a text brigade to our family, friends and colleagues asking for their help for the said project. As I predicted, most of the people I texted were all supportive and generous enough to help us. And then, one by one people started to pledge for the things they could provide and share. After gathering all the things that we needed for the charity work, I called the orphanage and home for the aged to schedule a date to visit them. And we agreed to do it on May 17, 2012!Yeeeeeyy!!!
Our first stop was at theNAZARETH: BahayPag-ibig Home For The Aged. It is located beside the San Pablo Cathedral, San Pablo City, Philippines. The said institution is a non-government organization which accommodates abandoned elders. Presently, they have 17 "lolos " and "lolas" (grandfathers and grandmothers).
The administrator of the home for the aged told us that like any other charitable institutions, donations come only seasonally. So, we thought that it was more practical to give them their personal needs. We gave them diapers, toiletries, medicines, and prepared some snacks for them.
Because Mike and I are both nurses, our friends in the hospital volunteered to go with us and helped us even though the sun was scorching hot that day. Thanks guys!!!! Deeply appreciated..
Our next stop was at the Open Door Christian Orphanage located at FuleSahagun St., San Pablo, City. It was founded in the year 2000 with the vision to reach out to the orphaned, abandoned, abused and destitute children. They have 27 kids in their protective custody right now.
As for the kids, we prepared school materials for them just in time for the new school year which is soon forthcoming. Notebooks, pencils, crayons, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, are some of the items found in their loot bags. We also gave them some toys, medicines and prepared some snacks for them.
They were all accommodating and we received a warm welcome from them.
All in all, we had a great time doing this small charity work. It is nice to see other people smile because of the little things that you’re giving them. Or they’re just happy, simply because you spend some time to be with them. This project made us realize how blessed we were. For sure, this is not the last time that we’re gonna do this. This is just a great start for us.‘Till our next project!!!!
Education is for everyone. This is true if all of us have the interest for it and have the means to acquire the same. Undeniably, it is the right of each and everyone of us to go to school and learn. However, what is actually happening is that there are some who have been deprived of the said fundamental right mainly for economic reasons.
UN-MDG monitor for Goal No. 2 revealed that while there have been strides in enrollment in primary education (about 6% increase from 2000 to 2008), it is still not enough to be able to hit the target 3 years from now. Approximately, 75 million are still out of school, majority of which are girls who have neither been to school at all nor have been able to finish or complete school's requirements. To date, UN data estimates that there are about 800 million illiterate adults all over the world, roughly 67% of which are women mostly from the Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, etc.).
It will be recalled that in “myusefultips” previous blog post, entitled “The Value of Quality Learning…." (http://www.myusefultips.com/?p=2237 ), it was mentioned that there are students throughout the globe who have been gifted with mental and analytical abilities but the problem lies on the needed finances for them to go to the best and quality schools and likewise the absence of certain interventions which Governments could have provided to its citizenry in so far as access to high-quality education is concerned. Each country has its own “best and brightest” boys and girls (poor and rich alike) and these privileged young minds could possibly build a brighter future for the next generations if their talents, particularly in science and technology, are unleashed, nurtured and honed.
UNESCO's (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Budapest Declaration on Science stated, among others, that “….Science should be at the service of humanity as a whole, and should contribute to providing everyone with a deeper understanding of nature and society, a better quality of life and a sustainable and healthy environment for present and future generations.” Said UNESCO's declaration recognized that science has a role in alleviating poverty and stimulating economic growth. The world is full of natural resources to be explored and discovered through scientific research and its applications which are deemed essential to development, but at the same time the world is being attacked with huge problems (e.g. poverty, poor health, ecological degradation, etc.). Thus, there is plenty of room for improvements using the resources that are available around us so we can have healthy and productive life and a fulfilling and bright future ahead of us.
In view of this, Government leaders particularly in developing economies are being encouraged to put in much higher budgetary appropriations for education and invest in and assist the poor but deserving kids (boys and girls), most especially, to obtain the said scientific knowledge which is expected to yield benefits for the entire human race at the end of the day. Rather than delving more of their study and leisure time to social technology such as video games and frequenting to social networking sites, these young bright students should be motivated to focus on more productive scientific learning related tools to increase awareness and stir their passion on the "real" science and technology. However, these could be realized only if and when all the stakeholders starting from the students, parents, teachers, businesses and the Government are willing and able to cooperate and share their time, talents and treasures altogether.
One example of a Government which responded to the said call to formulate education related reforms is the Philippine Government. In line with one of the Government's agenda to invest in people thru provision of quality education and ultimately make the county be more globally competitive, the Philippine Development Foundation or "PhilDev "(a non-profit organization based in the Philippines and the United States), organized a forum with the theme, “Accessing the Global Markets through Science and Technology (Innovations in Education Summit), on November 7th at NYC 's Asia Society Museum.
The said forum was attended by various experts in the academe, business sector, philanthropists and ordinary people and media (including bloggers) who share the same passion and believe in the advocacy. It was also in collaboration with the Philippine Government with some cabinet officials as speakers in the said event.
As you may know, the Philippines ranks 75th out of the 142 countries based on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, specifically in terms of technological innovations. Despite the country's positive economic growth, there is but a widening gap between the rich and the poor, where the latter (majority) holds the bottom portion of the pyramid, so to speak. Poverty and corruption related problems have worsened. Acknowledging these problems, the present Government's administration has avowed to correct and improve this situation by formulating and implementing a budget emphasizing on education, health, tax collection efforts, conditional cash transfer (CCT) and other revenue generating measures.
According to the Philippines' Secretary of Finance (Cesar Purisima) who was one of the speakers in the said event, the Philippine Government is bent on transforming the country (which is an archipelago in terms of its physical geography) as an “Island of Excellence”. He shared with the audience the proposed “Aquinomics” (named after the last name of the current Philippine President) of the present administration which has 4 pillars: macroeconomic stability, investment in people (e.g. CCTs, etc.), public private partnerships or private sector participation in some of its major public utilities and infrastructure building (e.g. schools, etc.) and the like. However, even if backed up with good policy and good intentions, there will always be skeptics along the way. As a matter of fact, the newly coined "Aquinomics" is even tagged by some as “no economics” or “no to economics”! But it didn't matter, he got a standing ovation from the audience, probably for his eloquence or his convincing powers!
Nevertheless, the forum was successful as it elicited some supporters to pledge and contribute to the “Super Fund” which was created for scholarship funds for the best and brightest Filipino youth to pursue studies and careers in the fields of science and engineering. Those in attendance were encouraged to pledge about $5,000/annum or $20,000 for a 4-year course to the said Fund to sponsor a a poor but bright freshman college student for his school related fees. So, if you wish to be involved in this endeavor by sponsoring a young Filipino child or college student to pursue studies in science and any technology related courses and who could possibly become scientists someday, please feel free to coordinate with any official of PhilDev at phildev.org.
The said Forum on Education was indeed relevant and timely as we are in the 21st century education. To cope with changing times, it is imperative for all Governments to respond to this challenge of developing young, playful and innocent minds into critical minds. Even if a student is incredibly bright, he can't simply do it by himself. He would require some guidance and support from all stakeholders mentioned earlier.
Thus, for a country to be more globally competitive and to continue to thrive, each citizenry should have to educate themselves, not just aim for the simple one but a better high-quality education. As further stated in the aforesaid Budapest Declaration, "Science and Technology should be resolutely directed towards prospects for better employment, improving competitiveness and social justice." As such, education in science and technology could serve as the focal point to achieving an end to world poverty.
1. After the Philippine forum on Education on the 7th of November, a gala show was held at the Lincoln Center with Filipino-American talents who have been successful in Broadway such as Lea Salonga who starred in Ms. Saigon, for one. The repertoire was mostly from the compositions of the famous American composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim.
2. On November 17 to 19, 2011, the Fifth World Science Forum shall be held in Budapest, Hungary
3. Above photos are not for reproduction. Thank you.
Education is one need in life which is close to my heart! Is it simply because I don't have anything, but this?
Education plays a crucial role in shaping a person's career path and professional growth with the end view of becoming successful someday, i.e, getting better jobs and earning more.
However, most of us know that even in the field of education, obviously there is a rising social class and inequality. Talented students whose parents can afford to send them to top-tiered schools would have better job opportunities and potentially could be accepted to occupy managerial posts in multinational corporations and other large organizations vis-a-vis struggling but equally talented and conscientious students who could not afford to go to the best schools due to limited funds, left with no choice but to go to a low quality school, be contented with a non-bachelor degree course and if lucky enough would land probably in an entry level technical position.
This is also true in elementary and secondary schools where the said gap between the rich and poor are being experienced particularly in developing countries, where affluent families send their children to private schools with good teachers and comfortable state-of-the-art facilities compared to certain public schools where classrooms and facilities are most of the times dilapidated with no repairs or maintenance, no field trips for students, no smart boards and most of all insufficient good “quality” teachers, and all of these are due to lower budget allocation for public education.
The sad reality these days is that an educated man with higher learning would absolutely have the competitive advantage over another who have not been able to reach high school or college, in so far as access to employment are concerned. However, there are exceptions naturally to the rule where quite a few willingly college drop-outs obviously make it big in the outside world such as the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs who became very successful in their endeavors because of their business acumen and technological know-how. Their decisions to pack up their bags out of college could have been in effect a blessing in disguise! It was considered an opportunity for them to pursue their dreams and do what they would love to do. As I said, these people and incidents are exceptions to the rule. It is not applicable to all, unless you have the necessary technological skills and that the same kind of opportunity knocks on your door.
For poor people, education is the only available weapon to battle the misery of poverty. It paves the way for majority of them (even middle class families especially in these trying times) to uplift their standards of living. As such, poor (and uneducated) but responsible parents who got no large tracts of lands , no money in banks and no businesses to give away to their children, would very much would like to see their children go to school, earn an education, be employed someday and save them hopefully from the bondage of poverty. To them, that's the best gift for their children, same thing for the latter to their parents. Thus, they would exert best efforts to go out of their way to look for ways and means to resolve the problem. Some would go to small lending institutions or even resort to “loan sharks” (this is the sad part), i.e. obtaining loan at an exorbitant interest rates but where small amount of loan repayments could either be made on a weekly or monthly basis. These families would also engage in small businesses, as food vendors and the like or join farmer, fisher folks or cottage industry cooperatives, just like what Lydia did, the widow in “my useful tips” earlier post about “Conditional Cash Transfers”, (check this link: http://www.myusefultips.com/?p=2453). Despite their hard work and patience, they are still faced with the problem on how they can sustain and cope up with the rising cost of education and related expenses particularly when their children reach high school, college and beyond.
But not all poor parents are high-principled like those which I have described earlier. There are some poor parents who do not regard education as one of their basic needs. Looking for food for them to survive is absolutely what is in their top most agenda. For most of them, education is secondary and only if it is offered to them for free, a decision will then be made on whether or not to send their kids to school. I think this is one aspect where Government and private sectors' investments are needed, primarily to help educate first the parents themselves on the importance of education for their off springs, that is from early childhood, to tertiary and so on. Empowering the parents as decision makers (e.g. sending their kids to school) will eventually make them feel part of the society as a whole.
This is precisely why there is importance in investing in education. Obviously, policy makers these days are being encouraged to re-assess and re-consider the subject in view of present policy discussions on poverty alleviation. Investment in education from both the Government and the private sector including non profit organizations is being regarded as a tool to increase productivity and thereby help build a strong economy. It is envisioned that Governments, particularly those in third world and developing economies and where budget for education is scarce, are inclined to partner with the private sector to offer “quality” education to all students, rich or poor.
Initial talks on private sector participation (PSP) in social services such as education under the third wave of privatization have been broached many years back, as such this so-called investment in education is not new. However, further discussions on the subject were either postponed or set aside due to some oppositions and resistance from certain stakeholders. As a matter of fact, one study prepared by an investment bank was placed on my table for review when I was still a public servant. I recall the consultant's findings and recommended strategies were elevated to concerned policy makers for consideration but the said recommendations were freezed to attend to some more important matters. Apparently, the consultant's recommendations were not seen as a possible solution to the country's problem on education at that point in time. It was seen to be politically incorrect and a bad policy to test the same given the wrong timing considering that it was an election year.
While the said proposed PSP recommendation could have resulted to better education system, it was seen as a bad move (anti-social) as the said proposed policy reform may not be embraced by majority of the people in the streets. The proposed strategy was not even a complete privatization of the education sector but only a portion of its operations, how much more if it was a full privatization. As such, partial or full reforms such as this could be shelved due to resistance from certain sectors, including the Government itself, primarily due to lack of political will.
Since then there have been emerging privatization strategies for the education sector considering that most Governments are of the view that an improvement in this sector would have beneficial impact on the life of the poor. As such education reforms have been adopted in various parts of the globe even in developed nations. In the U.S. for instance, there are parts of the country which have attempted considering the voucher system although it has not gotten to be successfully implemented, but some have adopted the so-called “charter schools” which have actually been helpful in a way based on studies undertaken by experts. It is seen as one way of bringing better education to under privileged group and a help to over crowded public schools.
Other developing countries are likewise making moves to fix their poor educational systems. Governments are placing more emphasis on education, finding all kinds of investment forms from all stakeholders as an alternative approach to privatization, mainly to enhance educational standards. One strategy on how to market these education-related programs and attract possible investors is to hold conferences, seminars and fora to provide a birds-eye view of a particular Government's plans and programs.
For instance, I got this invitation from the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev, formerly Ayala Foundation USA) thru its President Victoria Garchitorena to attend the forthcoming forum to be held on November 7th in New York to discuss on possible strategies regarding private sector participation in education and which of these are applicable to the Philippine setting. Briefly, PhilDev is a non profit organization based in U.S.A. and the Philippines (check phildev.org for more info.) of which its main thrust is "building an ecosystem of science and technology-based entrepreneurship and innovation for social and economic development in the Philippines."
For some who is not familiar about the Philippines, it is a small country in South East Asia, but it already ranked as the 12th most densely populated country in the world, approximately 99.9 million. While majority of its citizens can read and write, there are still plenty of improvements to be undertaken for its education sector.
Based on Phildev's account, the Philippines is one of the countries with lowest investment in education and “ranks very low in terms of global competitiveness”. As such the said forum is expected to be attended by people in Government, academe, business, non profit organizations, philanthropy, and other interested private individuals (non-Filipinos included) to explore ways and means to thresh out the issues and come up with doable solutions, e.g. looking for funding to strengthen education in science and technology or the so-called “strategic giving” for this endeavor, focusing on the strengths of its peoples, their technological skills specifically in science and math subjects at all levels.
Some of us may still have reservations about further investments in education but we all agree for sure that education is one of the keys to open our doors to economic recovery. Present administrations of both advanced and developing nations are formulating policy reforms that are geared towards investing in education, among others, as it has been found out that this is an effective way of lifting up our poor brothers and sisters and for them to get out of poverty, to make them competitive in the outside world, and contribute to build a robust economy.
For now, I shall leave the rest to our economists and scholars to formulate economic models and continue studying on the subject, particularly to show some analysis on how said investments on education could impact a particular economy as a whole. But even without the economic analysis/econometric models, I still believe (in hindsight) that pursuing investments in education, either from the Government or the private sector, would have a positive impact not only on a poor man's personal growth but also on the whole country's ailing economy. Thus, this is a global call for all Governments to stand up for this policy reform endeavor.
Lydia, a widow in her late 30's and with five (5) children to rear, lives in one of the poorest rural places in South East Asia. Just like majority of the women in the said place, Lydia is a homemaker used to spending most of her time attending to their young children's needs even during the time when her husband was still strong to till the soil of their landlord. Despite the hardships however, Lydia and her husband were happy and contented with what they have, with the only one full meal a day, and even without the basic needs for their children. But their happy humble days was cut short, Lydia was left alone, she was in “limbo” and didn't know how to cope with the sad situation. She had no choice but to learn to face the problem with the help of a community worker in their place.
Lydia is accustomed to a slow-paced life in their town. Initially, she had no difficulty dealing with the family's acute austere life style, trying to act now as both the mother and father of the household. Without realizing what she was doing, without too much concern about the future of her children, she taught them about life, her own way, particularly on how to be satisfied and thankful for everything. Not being able to graduate elementary herself and naïve of the existing privileges and assistance provided by their Government to family like hers, she allowed her kids to grow and stay at home. Her oldest child for instance who is turning 10 yrs. old, has not been able to go to school as she has already been given a responsibility to take care of her younger siblings at a young age while their mother works at a neighbor's house as a household helper with a measly daily salary of less than $2/day, and without social security benefits. The community worker called her attention and discussed the matter with Lydia specifically on the right of her children to formal education and other health related services.
The foregoing depressing situation being experienced by Lydia's family is not an isolated case. There are billions of people out there in distressed and poorer countries who are encountering the same problems as Lydia's, left with no choice but to be satisfied living with daily income of less than $2 or even worse, with only a dollar , or even less than that or with nothing at all. Can we blame these people, can we point a finger at and accuse them of making themselves miserable? For sure, if you will ask them, especially the rural poor, they will not complain, they will just coyly respond to you with a smile on their faces or sometimes their heads bowed down, and say “we're okay”, “we have been into this for a long time, we have been used to it”, we're truly thankful to God for our lives”, and so on and so forth. Believe me, the rural poor are on the conservative side, they are timid vis-a-vis the urban poor who are more conscious, vocal and assertive of their human rights.
The truth is, poor people just like Lydia, would not want to be poor all the time, all their lives. They didn't make it up. More so, they did not formulate a medium or long term plan on how to be “professional poor”. They have actually been dug in to the very bad situation that they are in, such that they find it very difficult to rise up in view of so many constraints, e.g. lack of resources, lack of education, lack of right connections, lack of opportunities or probably “lack of luck”. No person, in his right mind, would want or desire a life without food to eat, water to drink, clothes to wear, no access to education, healthcare and the like. Logic dictates that every person would want, at least, the basic necessities of life, much more for a quality life.
The aforesaid observation is in response to certain groups who are still skeptical about the true character of a poor man, and still hesitant to share their wealth to these people because of the notion that poor people became who, what and where they are now primarily due to laziness. This is also in response to the claims of some political figures that cash grants are costly, a waste of time and money than other proposed legislative measures such as the reproductive health bill. These are the same groups who have expressed reservations on certain Government-initiated programs that are expected to alleviate poverty in the short and long term. One program which still elicits opposing views in certain countries is the controversial so-called “Conditional Cash Transfers” (CCTs).
CCTs are considered as one of the financial tools available and provided by some Governments in collaboration with multilateral institutions such as the World Bank (WB) to the poorest of the poor in the society. It is one of the programs designed to help end poverty in certain countries, specifically by providing financial assistance, normally in the form of cash grants, to qualified poor beneficiaries, subject to certain terms and conditions. Basically, CCT is geared towards improvement in poor children's economic status as far as their education and heath care are concerned. The program has been in existence more than a decade ago and was first successfully implemented in Latin America, particularly in Brazil and Mexico. Based on WB impact studies and policy reports, CCT has had positive effects on poor households especially those with children such as, among others, in reducing poverty, in raising the utilization of education and preventive health services and also in household consumption (go to world bank website for further details).
In view of the successes and effective lessons learned from the Latin American's experience on CCT, other poor and developing countries such as that of Lydia's have followed suit and replicated the said program in their own native lands. As a matter of fact, advanced nations such as the United States, likewise tested this program but on a different context, on a much higher level. One example was the program initiated by NYC Mayor Bloomberg's office to promote quality learning for quality students by giving cash benefits or rewards to them should they be able to hurdle the State's Examinations. What a privilege! How lucky the NYC students are! However, the said arrangement appeared to have not much impact on the students as there were certain issues raised on this matter.
CCT likewise helps in empowering poor women in the society. One of the requirements of CCTs is that the money is to be released to women, normally to mothers in the family. The mothers are given the responsibility to do the funds budgeting and spending in behalf of the kids for their daily school and health care needs. Normally, mothers are perceived to be nurturing and more concerned on their children. Remitting the funds directly to the older women (e.g. mothers) in the family was proven to be effective as the mothers were frugal than men. Some men are seen to be more care free based on observations in certain environments where most of the men spent a portion, if not all, of their earnings for drinking, and other non-essential things. However, such financial arrangement on releases may be hostile to some male egotists in the family and may have negative effects on them in the long run, affecting the children's welfare.
Going back to Lydia's case, fortunately she was able to avail of the financial assistance with the help of their local community/social worker. Two of her kids are now enrolled in a public elementary school and used some of the money to buy school bags, uniform, slippers, shoes and other necessary school materials. All of their children have also been taken regularly to the health centers or clinics for physical examination and she started to buy milk and other nutritious food for her children. Without the CCTs and the help of their Government, Lydia would not be able to give her kids the right attention and care to them if she only relied on her own resources. However, in addition to the money given to her family by the Government, she got involved herself in livelihood programs where she is now a member of a cooperative making roofing shingles from palm tree.
Using Lydia's family case as an example, CCT proved to be extraordinarily essential in her quest to make her children get out of poverty and at least taste what quality life is. She's now fully aware and has realized that CCT is not a form of mendicancy, that it would not be there forever, as such, she's really doubly working hard for her children's future. Six (6) or seven (7) yrs. henceforth, two of them will hopefully complete elementary grade, a start of their childhood dreams, maybe a form of investment on Lydia's part but it is the only legacy which she can leave to her children.
With the CCTs, Lydia truly hopes that her family would be able to overcome their difficult yet challenging travel even on rough and chocolate roads to economic recovery!!
Is Microfinance an effective financial strategy to eradicate poverty particularly in developing economies?
I would blog on this as briefly and pragmatic as possible, as some of you may know that this topic is quite broad and would require empirical data/analysis to support any findings and recommendations.
In its simplest terms, microfinance involves extending loans to a group of borrowers or individuals, specifically the marginalized sector of society involving poor people encountering difficulties to transact business with private and government banking institutions. In other words, these are the poor people throughout the world numbering over 1 billion living in rural areas with less than $1.25 per day and who cannot afford to meet the collateral requirements offered by banks and other financing institutions. As such, these people cannot qualify for credit services which, in a way, could help improve their lives. Microfinance is also known as microcredit as lending transactions can go as low as $25.00 for a start-up business. Grameen Bank is one of the pioneers in microfinance operations.
Four years ago, I was contemplating on coming up with an impact study regarding microfinance activities in South East Asia, in conjunction with the plan to privatize the operational aspect of a particular government owned credit facility in my home country. The study would have likewise touched on how the money from donor countries, multilateral institutions and affluent private individuals were utilized for these kind of operations, specifically on whether or not the funds were properly utilized/monitored and that the funds indeed were catered to intended beneficiaries, the qualified poorest of the poor. However, the said plan was put on the back burner in view of the 180-degree turnaround in my career. While the said plan was set aside, it was not forgotten, these things were still part of the agenda and to-do-lists.
Incidentally, Microfinance is considered by the UN as important and an integral part of the efforts to achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). You’ll observe that my blog has tackled earlier topics on the MDG’s and so the subject matter is still in line with my blog’s objectives.
Similarly, some of my closest relatives have recently participated in lending money to the poor.
They joined (as lenders) Kiva, an international non-government organization (NGO), the mission of which, among others, is to assist poor people access to safe and well-priced credit through its lenders and field partners. Said lenders are given the choice on which person or loan requests they would like to fund. As mentioned earlier, the minimum fund ceiling involves a measly amount, only $25.00 and the lenders can hopefully make a change in the life of a small borrower. Since it involves small amounts, the loan is non-interest bearing and the repayment schedule would depend on the borrower’s capacity to pay, thus there may be some risks attached to it. The primary objective here is not for the “haves” to gain interest from their investments, but the happiness that they gained from helping alleviate the lives of the poor. I was just happy to note of my relatives’ decision to join in this endeavor. A good deed to start for the New Year!
But as I said, does microfinance activities really benefit the qualified poorest of the poor? Does it really improve the quality of life of the poor? There are so many things being said in the media but how accurate are these? While there are positive contributions and advantages of microfinance activities throughout the world, there are calls for changes and reforms as there were findings and cases where there were anomalies and bad practices in certain NGO’s and non-profit organizations involved in this undertaking. One was a case of fund diversion and another was about some of the funds earmarked for qualified beneficiaries went to individuals who weren’t poor at all!
Likewise, there is also a need to look at the entrepreneurial skills of the borrower individuals as most of them may lack education about engaging in any form of business. I recall some small borrowers of a certain government financial institutions were not able to continue operating the business and not being able to pay the loans at the end of the day as they were not equipped with all the skills needed to be successful even in low level businesses. It turned out these borrowers faced various difficulties on the marketing aspect and other financial services such as insurance, etc. Apparently, the lending institutions merely approved loans without giving due attention to the other needs of the small borrowers, i.e. educating them about doing business, particularly products marketing.
Sure, there are visible positive effects but there are dangers of the hype of microfinance. Yes, it may sound something smart and in-thing to do but there are things to look at before a particular developing economy ventures into this kind of endeavor. Perhaps a policy framework and implementing guidelines should be well crafted taking into account the best practices and the lessons learned from other countries which have previously dealt with it.
Should you however have the heart now and extra bucks to help those in need and willing to improve their lives, go ahead and look for a reputable NGO who would be able to assist you on this matter. It would be good to conduct due diligence before embarking on any venture, especially if it involves large amounts. By the way, my relatives are now receving the monthly payments from their chosen borrower. Good job!
My next blog on microfinance is on how overseas contract workers and retirees can avail of said activity in their respective home countries.
I was just starting my working career in my tweens when I was given the privilege to embark on my first solo official trip abroad. It was a three-month stay for a short course jointly offered by the Pakistan Government and its State Bank. The venue was in the heart of Karachi, Pakistan’s financial and commercial capital. Despite the apprehensions about the situation and being a newbie in a foreign land, it was not difficult for me to adjust because of the warm welcome and genuine hospitality that the Bank’s management and staff have accorded us for the duration of the course study. Together with the participants from developing economies, we had the opportunity to visit other major cities and places of Pakistan, including Peshawar and its nearby areas, which were among the flood-seriously hit regions recently.
The said short course fostered remarkable moments in my life, as it taught me how to be more independent, being away from home for the first time, and most importantly it provided me new perspectives and gained international friends from all walks of professional lives. I wish I could have commenced my blogging activities years ago , just to let them know how my stay in Pakistan influenced my views about life as a whole.
When I heard news about the recent Pakistan flood and other tragic stories happening in any parts of the world for that matter, be it fortuitous or not, it makes me sad. It urges me to do something, to reach out but could not, due to reasons beyond my control, except for my silent prayers for the victims. I thought the monetary and non monetary contributions could be best left to the richer governments like the United States, philanthropists like Bill Gates and credible organizations like the United Nations (UN) whose degree of influences would be far greater than mine.
Now that I’m part of the blogosphere community, I thought this is a right venue for me to make noise and encourage people to respond to the impassioned plea of the Pakistan Government, for immediate help and increase emergency aid, and of other countries stricken with natural catastrophes. This could be my way of returning the goodness once received from good- natured people, to echo the cry for help for all mankind so it can be seen and heard in every corner of the globe, especially by the privileged few, those who have all the luxuries in life, from billionaires down to the common people, who can afford to give, even if it hurts.
The recent flood in Pakistan as shown in the web and tri-media was harrowing and heart wrenching. It affected more or less 20 million people and 1,600 dead. The UN as a matter of fact considered this as a global disaster, a global challenge, and has appraised the said calamity as the “greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history”. It was ironic that said deluge happened just 5 days before the celebration of the World Humanitarian Day. As such, the incident has even doubly increased the current workloads and efforts of the international aid workers who have been patiently dealing with such charitable causes.
In its initial assessment of the Pakistan flood damage, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that more than 800,000 houses have been damaged, 80,000 livestock have perished and 2 million hectares of crops have been destroyed, depriving the people of their livelihood and eventually posing a threat to the country’s food security. Additionally, more than 2,500 schools, 175 health centers, and 1,000 water supply facilities and power supply and distribution have been damaged. Vital infrastructures like roads and bridges have been broken, paralyzing other regions of the country.
We all know that Pakistan is no rich country. It is one of the nations where the gap between the rich and the poor is fast widening. World Bank reports show that a number of Pakistanis fall below the poverty line and live in villages, majority of whom were affected by the recent flood which devastated the country's already fragile economy. Prior to the calamity, poverty, health, education, unemployment are already among the principal problems in its society. We could just imagine how would these poor people be able to get up all the more from the bad effects of the recent disaster without the help of the “luckier” ones from within and outside the counry's perimeters, so to speak.
This call is not yet too late. It is just about time. It is not my responsibility alone, but all of us, regardless of race or creed, to spread the call for help as the people affected are just starting to pick up the pieces in view of the adverse outcome of the deluge.
Some have managed to retrieve their personal belongings and equipment covered with mud and people who have been homeless are now staying in tents in other districts.
They neither have land to till, crops to harvest, nor livestock to tend for personal or business purposes as the same have been washed away and drowned. Majority of the people have no food to eat and are presently depending on food donations from large organizations but it’s just not enough. These organizations have likewise to allocate part of their resources for other countries faced with similar situations.
This call for help is for all of us to take part in the cause of large organizations which have been there to assist in these times of crisis, not only in Pakistan but in other places as well, for humanitarian purposes. This call is just timely and opportune to coincide with the World Humanitarian Day celebrated this month. There are several ways and means to heed this call and it is just a matter of time and priority. Various credible and legitimate organizations are likewise available 24/7 on the web to receive donations. We don’t have to be super duper rich to help those organizations already on the ground. A cent, a dollar or more donations, if combined together with large contributions and if put to good use and managed well would definitely give impact on a person's life, especially those in need of food, clean water, basic sanitation and healthcare or to people living in emergency crisis like that of Pakistan.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, there is happiness in giving than there is in receiving, particularly in helping the poor. It isn't what we have or who we are that makes us happy, it is the good things that we do, give or share with someone , whether big or small, that makes our faces and hearts glow and that’s the best gift that we could receive in return. So, let’s make a difference now! Help and Give! It is truly a rewarding experience!
Your feedback on this would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.
I can understand why formulation of “anti-corruption” policies is never mentioned in the targets or indicators of the UN MDG’s, in correlation to poverty and economic growth. I presume the subject matter may not be within the realm of UN’s aims, duties and functions, as provided for in its charter. However, there is a vague reference to it wherein one of the targets included in MD Goal No. 8 is a commitment from the world leaders to “good governance”, by supporting, among others, transparency and accountability at all levels but said indicator is specifically geared towards allocation and spending of international aid and donations only. Based on my recollection, “governance” is a high-tech jargon coined by the donors which involves several things including power and politics where donors themselves may not be able to interfere. Outside of this “good governance” box, however, there is no mention on how to address the systemic graft and corrupt practices in other forms by some people from both the public and the private sector that are prevalent in third world and developing countries. I think neglecting the problem of corruption, be it petty or large scale, in any poverty reduction goals may be futile as we all know that corruption in any form is undoubtedly, not just a perception, a major deterrent to poverty eradication.
As you may be aware, corruption happens not only in third world or least developed economies but also in rich, developed and industrialized countries such as the US. Thus, it is present in all government societies regardless of level of income and development, location, race, culture and traditions. However, the degree of impact of corruption, as one of the causes of poverty, is rampant and is adversely felt more among the poorer nations where some people are susceptible to accepting and committing all forms of corruption activities, which include among others, misuse and abuse of power, fraud, bribery, extortion, collusion, embezzlement, “kickbacks”, money laundering, nepotism, or even undue influence and the like.
I recall in my home country, most or if not all of the politicians running for higher office would like to associate themselves with the poor. As part of their strategies, they go to urban slum areas and remotest towns and villages with promises of high hopes and aspirations, i.e. improve people’s lives and ultimately help them get rid of their miserable plights. One recent winning candidate even has this slogan, which says, “When no one is corrupt, no one gets poor”. This only shows that corruption is still prevalent and permeates in every level of society, from local and national governments, judiciary functions, big ticket and small companies, military services and so on and so forth. How do we explain this? Oh, in so many ways. I just don’t want to delve in this blog the nitty-gritty of the transactions which I myself have observed in my long years in public service. We all know it’s happening but majority of us either turn a deaf ear or wear a blind eye for certain reasons beyond our control. As I said earlier, corruption is not just a perception but is actually happening both upstream and downstream, especially those people engaged in front line operations or people entrusted with revenue generating activities and with “juicy” positions, so to speak.
While I do agree with some schools of thoughts that bad macro-economic policies and fiscal reforms adopted by certain poorer Governments as a result of negotiations with multilateral agencies (e.g. World Bank, IMF, etc), may have posed threats to economic recovery, I still consider corruption as one of the major causes, and likewise one of the effects of poverty, (it’s a “chicken and egg” situation”). I hate to say this, but this is the truth, corruption in the bureaucracy can be likened to a dreadful disease which may be hard to resolve in its final stage. I don’t know why some groups don’t consider it as a serious problem. Is it because they are either guarded by their own rules, or afraid to encroach on other’s turf, or worried they might break their “hard-earned” local or international/bilateral relationships? I don’t have answers to these series of questions for now but only time can tell.
As Karl Kraus said, “corruption is worse than prostitution” which means that committing any kind of corruption activities is far morally horrible than engaging into prostitution considering that the former will ever jeopardize not only the morality of the corrupt person but the morality of the entire country as well. The consequence of a large deal of corruption, for instance diverting funds intended for a noble purpose to someone or to few individuals personal gain, can be devastating to the concerned individuals and those around them. A classic example is one of a top ranking official in Asia where she stood trial with her cohorts for embezzling about 300,000 dollars (depositing certain fund donations to her family’s personal trust fund accounts) which was originally intended to build a state orphanage. Before the charges and the trial happened, said prominent lady official was included in Forbes list of the world’s 50 most powerful women. Truly, the act of corruption itself does not only affect one’s persona (in this particular case the lady top official dropped instantly from glory to humiliation), but it also contributes making a particular economy poorer without any conscience to humanity (particularly the impoverished people) and the country’s future generations.
As mentioned in my previous blog on poverty, the Government’s leadership of a certain economy can trap poverty if there’s political will and political direction to do it. Candidly, there’s political will from Governments most of the times, but do they have the heart to do it? There seems to be no sincere commitment as some of the leaders themselves who were responsible for instituting anti-corruption policies may have been allegedly guilty of amassing the State’s wealth in their favor. At present, there are local (e.g. ombudsman offices) and international (e.g. Transparency International) watchdogs which acts as overseers, monitors and prosecutors for corruption related activities throughout the world. There are also civil society and advocacy organizations and some media which supports in this endeavor.
Believe me, the issue of corruption, as insurmountable as it is, can not be eliminated by said credible organizations and crusaders alone, much more overnight or just by a click of a finger, particularly if it’s already widespread. It’s worrisome that such ill-fated activities appear to be ingrained in the system, considered as a way of life, or a norm in an organization where management and employees tolerate the existence of corruption and no longer bother about their values and integrity and just couldn’t care less about the adverse effects of what they’re doing. Some of them may have been wrongly informed or may have skewed existing rules and regulations, or may have learned to rationalize that doing so is part and parcel of their day-to-day operations; that it is okay for them to receive bribes in exchange for a swift delivery of public service or to expedite a needed public document and so on and so forth. Based on a study conducted by the World Bank, petty corruption was endemic in all sectors in almost all countries, and this is more vexing as it involves the delivery of basic public services to the poor, such as healthcare, education, power, land administration, taxation, military, police and judiciary. However, I don’t discount the fact that there are “good guys”, decent men and women in Government and business which do not engage in corruption activities. Thus, if only all people from both the public and private sector will abide with the rules and regulations, just like the “good guys” , would it be fair to say that corruption can actually be eradicated? Does it mean that corruption involves or affects one’s values alone?
In the penultimate paragraph of my previous blog on poverty, it was indicated that poverty can be eradicated with proper Government policies, right attitude and participation from all of us. I will also clamor for the same thing, that corruption can be reduced, eliminated or cured if only all of us will start to change, change of our attitudes is of utmost importance, starting from the leader to the bottom. However, I believe corruption is not just about ethics, it has to be side by side with a well managed bureaucracy coupled with transparency, accountability, institutional checks and balances, dedication and loyalty to the service. There are existing civil service rules and regulations or policies within the respective offices, governing public servants as far as discipline, spending, saving, property ownership and the like, which are meant to prevent them from engaging in said unhealthy practices, and if these are property enforced (i.e. if caught and punished for corrupt behavior), there may be no corrupt people in any organization.
There have been success stories where attitude change was promoted and utilized by certain Governments as a measure and solution to eradicate corruption. The Hong Kong Government for instance, specifically thru its Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), adopted a long term, three-pronged approached, one major strategy of which is to educate the people about attitudinal change putting emphasis on integrity and moral values. Educating the people did not only include behavioral change, proper attitudes but also changing faulty conviction and beliefs. Children in schools in fact were not only informed about the implications of corruption related activities but it also included a process to instill values. As a result, thousands of people volunteered, in addition to advocacy organizations and media, have been enlisted to support in the battle against corruption. Said strategy proved successful, turning a once upon a time most corrupt place to a clean Hong Kong nation.
With the Hong Kong Government’s encouraging experience, it is neither impossible nor unrealistic that other nations would not be able to replicate and successfully do it. Only skeptical people who have reservations and often reacts with a shoulder shrug doubting certain leaders ability to promote change, certainly should have no place in the society. These are the people who are complacent, lukewarm and consider corruption as inevitable. What is needed are people who have the passion and the willingness to change for the better. As we’ve learned, battling corruption is definitely not a one-man show, it requires a concerted effort from all of us. As the song goes, “No man is an island, No man stands alone, Each man’s joy is joy to me, Each man’s grief is my own”. How I wish everyone would sincerely help each other someday, especially to those in need, the poor ones.
May I end this blog quoting an excerpt from a speech of one of the leaders in South East Asia, prescribing a simple cure for poverty and corruption:
“We can only end poverty, if we fight corruption and this is where everyone has a major role to play. It can be done in simple ways, by showing common courtesy to strangers, by paying taxes, by following traffic rules, and by disposing of our waste property”.
“We can do even more by reporting any wrongdoing that might be brought to our attention. Let us challenge ourselves and our leaders to brave the straight path”.
Oh yes, let’s challenge ourselves to make a change in our lives, to change our attitudes. Let’s challenge our leaders, demand action and hold them accountable. This is a call for all the people throughout the world. Remember, battling poverty and corruption merely requires simple ways!
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Ever since my childhood, I have seen the sad reality of disparity and inequality between the rich and the poor*. This gap continues to widen through the years and is almost similar and happening in all parts of the globe, particularly in underdeveloped and developing countries where people are predominantly poor. As of 2008, about 80% of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. This bleak scenario becomes even worse when victims, particularly the children, of the creeping disaster of poverty can no longer open their eyes and would have no other choice but to wait for their time to die of hunger, to die of lack or absence of health and medical care, and other facets of poverty.As a matter of fact, UNICEF’s latest data show that about 20,000 to 25,000 children die each day due to poverty and these are mostly happening silently in the poorest villages on earth.Indeed, this is a sad reality wherein even those in power cannot or may not be able to help contain or lessen the widening gap between the two social classes either because of selfishness and greed in the guise of corrupt and uncaring people who may not want to end poverty.
When I briefly described the overview of UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) in my earlier blog,I was a little bit skeptical of how the formulatedgoals and the tasks to be undertaken can be achieved by 2015 in view of the many inherent factors and problems attached to it.I don’t doubt the wisdom and the expertise of the world leaders and the superheroes appointed by the UN to facilitate the project when they committed to and accepted the said grand and bold targets, so to speak.I just hope this is not like one of the studies that were undertaken by tapped consultants with hefty professional fees, and later only to find out in an archive, with no concrete solutions and tangible results.In hindsight, poverty is something complicated characterized by a plethora of moving ways and styles, a fundamental and critical issue which deserves some serious consideration by all of us.It’s like a serious illness that has been there for centuries and decades and could not be eradicated even if attended to by experts or the who’s who in economics or even with the recent discoveries of health and science and new state of the art technologies.
Nevertheless,as I am an advocate of quality of life and alleviating poverty is one,I do firmly believe that this particular MDG goal (Goal #1) can be attained and a big change can happen only if therespective Governments and big ticket corporations have political will which can provide political direction for this cause.I further believe that we can get on with this and ultimately overcome poverty, only if each one of us, the luckier ones, will sincerely unite and provide our share for this worthy undertaking.What is being required from all of us is a simple cooperation and willingness to make a paradigm shift, not only in terms of economic variables but also in ourselves, our attitude towards life, and our moral and social responsibility and concern for the impoverished.
I don’t consider myself poor and I don’t consider myself rich either.I certainly am no expert on this field but I am fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to have a decent education to make me relate and understand the people’s miserable state, people with no access to basic needs in life: food, shelter, clothing, education, health, livelihood and the like.This is where all of us can unite and it is may be the right time for us to extend help to our neighbors with no or scarce resources.I don’t want to delve on the history and the series of events why people become poor. I don’t want to blame anyone why these faces of poverty are happening.What I would like to do now is how I can help and share in my most humble way, realize the dreams of our brothers and sisters who were not lucky enough to experience at least even a piece of the good things in life.
The topic on poverty is absolutely heart wrenching, especially from my vantage point.This is not merely based on recounts from people throughout the globe but exact graphic recollections of my actual experiences and observations on how rural and urban poor in the country where I was born and raised cope with their sad condition.I have come face to face with the realities of poverty in both urban and in far flung areas. In the rural areas for example,I have seen boys and girls walking on barefoot under the scorching heat of the sun with big rattan baskets or a sackcloth on their back filled with local produce, apparently helping their parents who till the soil of a landlord, to liquefy the said produce into cash.It really pained me to see those small kids forced to help their parents to earn for a living and being denied the right to go to school and being exposed to health hazards because of economic deprivation.Another story is that of a man and his neighbor carrying on foot the former’s sick pregnant wife in a hammock–like carrier to the nearest health center which is located lakes and plains away from their place and only to find out after reaching the place that his wife has already expired due to absence of immediate medical attention.This is just one of the genuine tragic stories and misery plights that do happen and being experienced by some of our less fortunate brothers primarily due to faulty economic policies, i.e., lack of government support on health and maternal care and inefficiency of support services, particularly in the remotest towns and villages.
On the other hand,the face of poverty in urban and metropolitan areas are sometimes depicted by so-called impoverished informal city dwellers and their condition may even be worse than those in the rural areas.As all of us may know,the urban poor are mostly composed of migrants from the rural areas who have moved in to try their luck in cities.These are homeless people proliferating citywide with no permanent addresses and were left with no choice but to live under bridges, along railroad tracks and most of the times in so-called “smoky mountains” or smoking garbage dump site, so to speak.I had the chance to observe how these people try to cope with this kind of a desolate lifestyle and try to make do the little that they have in order to get by.There was one time I visited a family living under the bridge located probably just few miles from the Presidential Palace.This family of five lives with the other squatters who seem to have formed a community under the bridge.They live in a shack made of scrap cardboard/carton boxes and rusty tin roof, erected on a more or less 5 sq.m. area.However, above where they stayed was a newly repaired concrete bridge and decorated by local officials with glittering lights for the upcoming Christmas celebration, exactly the opposite of what was actually happening under it.This situation was a classic example of irony at its fullest.I recall the mother told me that everything is being done in the very small area.His husband and their three children eat, sleep,and do their personal needs there.Their focus everyday was on how they can feed their small children and how to survive and it was impossible to think of other needs like the health and education of their children.In fact, the older kids, about 7 to 10 yrs old helped their father look for food, scavenging or sifting through the garbage of nearby restaurants and food chains for leftovers to eat and recyclables which can be sold for a song, so to speak,to a scrap dealer.I had goose bumps while listening to her story and I knew from that moment that there are many other families suffering the same plight, families who got used to a slum lifestyle scavenging food for survival.
In the Philippines,for instance, ADB data, shows that there are over 3 million people who live in slums around Metro Manila and guess what,this is about the same number of people living in Chicago.Based on UN’s figures,Metro Manila is considered as one of the largest cities (ranked as 15th) and populous cities (ranked as 11th) in the world with a total population of about 12 million people, although some accounts show a higher number at over 16 million.On the other hand, New York City, an industrialized and well developed city has a population of only about 8 million people, the bulk(2.7 million people) of which come from the Brooklyn area, based on a 2008 survey.The Metro Manila situation probably could be similar as in other countries having the same socio-economic hardships.
For many of us who are fortunate to have an affluent lifestyle, who have the luxury of buying nonessential things,who have beengiven the chance to have steady decent jobs and sufficient income,would it be hard for us to spare a piece of bread, so to speak,to these people who live on less than $2 or even $1 a day?Can we afford to be blind not to see the unmasked faces of poverty in poor countries in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa?How can we help?How can some of us receiving huge bonuses or decent salaries from our respective work and realizing substantial gains from our businesses, help alleviate poverty in the poorest of the poor nations? Our extra money spent on luxuries could help feed so many starving children throughout the globe.So, instead of attending gambling sessions, frequenting saloons and bars for drinking spree or beauty salons for facial and aesthetics purposes, or shopping all the time for unnecessary things, would you not feel happy if you share something for the poor or form a group among your family and friends, which I am doing now by the way, for something more valuable, not only in the eyes of man but also in the eyes of God?There’s happiness in helping the poor, by the way, and that’s the best gift that you’ll receive after helping.
For policy makers out there and government authorities in power, I hope you will do your very best to do more for your country and constituents.You have been bombarded with so many complaints from your critics but nothing much has changed.Some of you out there may have stolen from coffers or squandered resources of an impoverished economy either thru mismanagement or “kickbacks” from implemented projects without oversight and auditing, this is your opportune time to renew, give back and show that you deserve to be the leader of your country.Majority of the people have still high regard in your sincerity, dedication and commitment to public service, particularly in improving people’s lives.
Finally, the beauty of the world where we live is that, it has vast and rich natural resources to provide food for everyone, to provide clean water, shelther, education and the like. With appropriate government policies coupled with the right attitude and contributions from all of us, I firmly believe that we would be able to help alleviate poverty and eventually save our less fortunate brothers and sisters from the shackles of poverty and build a better world for all of us.
I have so many things in mind to write about the subject, its causes and impact on economy and the community as well, but the topic on poverty is just so enormous.I know I have not covered all of it but my blog is quite lengthy already.I would therefore invite you to give your comments and feedback and it will be greatly appreciated.Thank you!