From Bolivia to Laos to Kenya, I’ve had many frustrating encounters with destitution and the havoc it wreaks on families. Even having volunteered with street kids and folks living on a dollar a day over the years, POVERTY is such an enormous worldwide crisis (it deserves all caps, no?) that it seems completely impossible to make a dent. I think that’s one of the reasons the third world is easy to ignore. I tend to lean toward extremes and focus on an all-or-nothing approach in my own life, so I’ve often felt that if I can’t change the whole world, nothing else would be worthwhile.
Maybe someday I will do something that can eradicate poverty on a global scale. But for now, I want to take a small step. Help a few people. Make a teensy difference.
So here’s the plan: I call it “Adopt-a-Slum.” Through the local staff at Compassion, we’ve identified 30 families who live in the Ngong Hills slum whose kids are part of the Compassion* program. Instead of short-term assistance, I want to focus on improving their lives for good.
The first step is to give the parents an opportunity to make a decent living. During my visit to the slum, I watched as moms and dads bent over at the waist, digging in a landfill next to their homes for scraps of food to sell to farmers for livestock. It’s filthy and full of disease and there’s obviously no room for the thought of a better future. There’s no other job they could get without education or running water or clothing. But I want to help them change that circumstance by providing seed funding to start a small business of their own.
Chopping veggies with a woman from the slums who started her own business
I spoke with the staff at Compassion and several families have received one-off donations from sponsors in the past, using the cash to start their own vegetable stands or food carts. Going from lowly trash digger to respectable food seller is not just a physical financial boost, but also a mental one. With parents actively engaged in commerce in the neighborhood, the children are able to dream bigger than the slum. Even if the parents never want to leave, with Compassion sponsors and the Adopt-a-Slum effort, the kiddos at the center will have the freedom to imagine a better life. A life outside poverty, where eventually they may be in a position to make a bigger difference locally than I ever could from afar.
So how much does hope cost?
How much will it take to give a family the chance to start a small business in a slum in Kenya?
Right. That’s about a week’s worth of lattes or one NYC brunch to give someone hope that life isn’t just something to survive. That someone out there cares about hungry babies and dirty little feet and is standing with them in solidarity. I was floored when I learned just how little it would take to change lives.
The second step is to buffer the families with a small cash injection for several months worth of supplies while they get the business up and running. Shoes for the kids or a pan to cook with. Blankets for the winter. Grain, oil and sugar. Remember, they live in shacks made of bits of tin and fabric, so any improvement that can be made is most certainly dire and necessary. I’m budgeting around $70 per family for supplies for a grand total of $100 each.
For $3,000, we can change an entire community of some of the world’s poorest citizens for the better. It’s such a small goal and so attainable – I can’t help but think more people would get involved if only they knew how simple it was.
Now, I haven’t had time to set up an official foundation, so this is going to be a very ragtag operation. If you trust that I’m not some Madoff-like money-snatcher (and I’m totally not!), then I’ve made it really easy to donate via the PayPal button below – my account is [email protected]. (PS – you don’t have to have a PayPal account – credit cards are accepted, too!)
Rest assured, every cent will be sent directly to the Compassion center for use in the Adopt-a-Slum project and I’ll be happy to show all receipts anywhere you like. The first $225 is coming from me!
If you’re wary of sending cash this way, I totally understand. You can make a tax-deductible donation to the center by calling 800-336-7676 or you can mail a check to the following address:
Colorado Springs, CO 80997-0002
Just indicate that the donation should go to Compassion Center KE-755 in Ngong Hills, Kenya, and I will ensure that the funds are directed into this particular project.
If this type of outreach isn’t your cup of tea, but you want to help in some way, check out a couple of my other travel blogger friends (Backpacker Becki, Tourist 2 Townie, A Little Adrift, Passports with Purpose) in their efforts to change the world. Or sponsor your own kiddo via Compassion for just $38/month.
It’s really easy to change a life with the change in your pocket. And if you could see me right now, you’d know I’m begging for it.
So what do you think of Adopt-a-Slum? Do you have questions? Can you help?
*This organizational link will ensure that the funds are properly distributed to real people with real issues – but I should mention the effort is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Compassion. I’m operating independently to raise the funds and am donating them to these folks via the Compassion organization and its local staff.
$225 Angie O
$50 Liz O
$50 Alex B.
$100 Jo Ellen G (Submitted via Compassion)
$50 Darla D
$500 – 5 families
$30 Jane W
$30 Karla H
$30 Blake & Gabi C.
$30 Mary C.
$30 Anita M.
$30 Jamie M.
$50 Simon F.
$30 Rachel P.
$30 Robert J.
$50 Michael T.
$300 Angie O.
First installment: $1,040 Paid June 11, 2012
Total raised as of June 11, 2012 : $1,140
$30 Jessica M.
$25 Emiel B.
$20 Jonathan K.
$30 Nicole J.
$30 Jennifer D.
$5 Jennifer Q.
$50 Lindsay M.
$150 Angie O.
$40 Stephanie C.
$30 Nicolas S.
$1,550! 15 families served and halfway there!
$60 Marziya M.
$300 Angie O.
$30 Lauralee R.
$100 Jennifer H.
$30 Denise H.
$30 Jane W.
$50 Sarah C.
Total raised as of Feb. 6, 2013 : $2,150
Second installment paid Feb. 6, 2013: $1,010
$560 Angie O.
$80 Tina F.
$20 Jennifer P.
$10 Debbie P.
$30 Heather W.
$30 Mark S.