These are some comments made by general public Australians at a local shopping centre when confronted with the idea of international aid and child sponsorship.
Aid is a very broad, misunderstood term and is generally thought of as great Western powers providing handouts to grateful developing countries, mainly during times of natural disaster. We desperately need to move beyond this, to an understanding of aid being linked with development which addresses and appreciates its complexity, and is based on a vision of a common humanity and interdependence (aglobalvillage.org).
Poverty lands in this same category, bringing with it a variety of definitions and again, misconceptions. Poverty is portrayed very poorly and often comes in the form of guilt-inducing images of starving kids. While although a great fund raiser, this type of advertising and portrayal of poverty can perpetuate a perverse and restrictive representation of aid. 'Charity fatigue' inevitably creeps in – these images become trapped in a frame of "aid" in the public mind, where aid becomes permanently linked with donations and guilt (aglobalvillage.org).
Poverty in Australia and poverty in a country like the Republic of Congo is vastly different. The discussion is not whether we have any true poverty in Australia and whether we should help them or not. The discussion is that billions are living in extreme poverty across the world, in many different countries and we can and need to play a part, even a small one, in helping in our own country AND in other nations.
International aid and working against poverty is not everyone else's problem. It is not something we can leave up to governments. They have already broken many promises in helping the developing world. International aid should be something we all should see as paramount and something we can all take part in to reduce or even eliminate extreme poverty on a large scale.
But for this to become a reality people need to be educated and informed to allow attitudes and preconceived ideas to dramatically change. The good news is that there are people who are driving this much need shift in thinking and action. One of these people is Seth Le Leu. Seth was one of the four HotHouse speakers last week at ARPA.
Seth Le Leu
I was honoured to meet Seth Le Leu recently at the Australasian Religious Press Associations' (ARPA) Annual Conference in Wellington, New Zealand. (7-9 September)
He featured as a guest speaker on the Hothouse panel and inspired us about the issue of poverty and being our 'brothers keeper'.
Seth has 26 years international development and relief involvement and is Chief Advisor on International Programmes for World Vision, New Zealand. This includes supervising all the community development work and humanitarian respite work done by World Vision New Zealand office in partnership with about 20 countries.
His passion and experience in the area of poverty takes him on speaking engagements and also to see the programs being implemented in some of the most poverty stricken countries in the world. He also blogs on the World Vision NZ website of his experiences. (teamblog.worldvision.org.nz)
What drives Seth? "I believe we are placed here to share with people who have less. I find extreme need is a catalyst. This is the need, what is the solution? What is the way forward? Hope is possible, even in darkest places." (www.nzherald.co.nz)
Global Poverty Project
An organisation also driving change of thinking and action is Global Poverty Project.
To inspire and educate the general public, Global Poverty Project has developed a world-class multimedia presentation 1.4 Billion Reasons. It is created to engage and inspire everyday Australians to join the movement to end extreme poverty.
Global Poverty Project utilises the power of education, communications, advocacy, campaigning and the media to advance the movement to end extreme poverty. (www.globalpovertyproject.com)
They campaign government, business and consumer action that will create important systemic change for the world's extreme poor, and build a movement that engages and educates people, and supports them to take simple but effective individual actions for change. (www.globalpovertyproject.com)
How do we end extreme poverty?
In the majority of the western world, our existence is stable. In many countries their basic existence is uncertain.
Every year in the developing world more than 8 million children under the age of five die from preventable causes like neonatal complications, pneumonia, diarrohea and malaria. (www.worldvision.com.au)
The poor need to be empowered for the cycle of poverty to be broken in this generation.
The world needs people who are passionate and driven toward reducing and ending poverty. Global Poverty Project and Seth Le Leu are doing just this.
Seth explains that along with aid, they need a message of hope.
We are our brothers keeper indeed. The Bible says in Phillippians 2:4 that each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Ignoring the needs of the disadvantaged, assuming and being uneducated about international aid with pride, all while doing nothing is not bringing hope to this situation.
Belinda Croft is married to Russell and she has a son BJ, 12 years. Currently Belinda is studying a Bachelor Degree in Journalism. She has a passion for God, writing, creativity, mission and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html