Although poverty remains a part of our world, love still works wonders.
An article published on August 3, 2017, in The Washington Post states: “Christians (…) are much more likely than non-Christians to view poverty as the result of individual failings.” Nevertheless, it is also Christians who have often felt that caring for the poor and their temporary needs is an imperative coming from the heart of their religion.
Without claiming that the Christian world has fully understood the model of Jesus Christ, who “became poor for us,” glimmers of His beauty are seen in the gestures of love of some communities of faith or of individuals toward the poor or entire communities living on the brink of survival. Their example deserves to get us thinking, at a time of the year when we talk more about charity.
The motto of Francis’ pontificate, “A Poor Church for the Poor,” is actually a perennial ideal of all Christian churches—all the more so as it is known that hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. That is why many Christian associations worldwide and nationally are struggling to find ways to help those facing extreme poverty, providing them with food, and helping them discover ways in which they can develop on their own.
The Food for the Hungry Association (FH) was founded in 1971 by Dr. Larry Ward and currently operates in over 20 countries, partnering with prestigious organizations such as UNICEF, USAID, and the World Bank. The way it works is practical and efficient. The association provides training and resources to local volunteers, considering that the best solutions are born in the midst of the community.
On the official website of the association, we also find the story of Alba, a young mother from El Limonal, Nicaragua. Alba had a difficult childhood, being orphaned by both parents and having to work hard to support herself and her grandparents. Even after she got married, things didn’t improve much. Although she worked hard with her husband, they barely made a living. Then, after the birth of the children, the situation became even more dire.
However, the meeting with the FH volunteers proved to be providential. After attending a training meeting in making handicrafts, she started working on small exhibits which, to her surprise, she managed to sell at a good price.
Her husband became interested in helping her, and together they developed a small business that allowed them to make a decent living for themselves and their children. They even managed to move into a new house. Their example motivated others, and gradually a new spirit began to be seen throughout the community.
In December 2020, the organization raised the necessary amount to donate 3,000 Bibles to poor children in the communities where FH volunteers work.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is another example of the fight against extreme global poverty, being an international organization that currently operates in more than 130 countries and has more than 6,000 employees and volunteers worldwide. Among the many cases helped by ADRA is that of Voahary and Raniza.
Voahary lives on the outskirts of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Some of the schools in this area have lost an impressive number of pupils due to the extreme poverty of many families. Thus, in only one of them, the number of pupils has dropped from 900 to 380. Many families are so poor that they have to choose between paying for their children’s tuition or buying them food. Because of this, many students like Voahary have to miss breakfast and lunch.
ADRA International has tried to get involved in this situation, offering over 20,000 packs of food in six primary schools and an orphanage, thus managing to help over 1,100 pupils to continue their studies. Among them is Voahary, who wants to become a doctor.
In Nepal, ADRA organized literacy classes for women in Tharu. Most of them had been making a living by selling firewood, which they struggled to gather from the forest. The courses included lessons in knowledge of letters and numbers, as well as elements of leadership, and financial education, trying to offer profitable alternatives to traditional models of earning a living. Among the women who participated in these courses was Raniza.
Despite her husband’s reluctance, she continued to participate and even opened a small business, then another and another, as a result of the training she received. Her initiatives and those of others like her have managed to give a new lease of life to her community and help many families to have a decent standard of living.
Beautiful stories up close
In Romania, the ProVita Association for newborns and stillborn children, founded by priest Nicolae Tănase, cares for over 500 beneficiaries, mostly children. Specifically, in the camp in Valea Screzii, there are 120 people, of which 80 are children and teenagers or young people who have left the state system. In addition to these, another 400 people are in the care of families from the villages of Valea Plopului and Valea Screzii. Priest Tănase’s initiative officially began after 1990, when the priest promised mothers who agreed not to have an abortion that he would take care of their children.
In 1997, there were 30 children in Father Tanase’s camp. By 2018, more than 1,600 people had been helped by priest Nicolae Tănase, which seems amazing for an individual initiative. Every story here is impressive and simple at the same time.
On October 26, a 70-year-old pensioner from Câmpulung Muscel left for Africa again. His name is Pavel Bartholomeu. He goes there every year and stays for a few months. He built a school, bought a high-powered tractor for agricultural work, dug wells in the most inaccessible places—helped only by his strong faith and those who believe in his dream. Without the support of famous organizations, but with dedication and courage, he has managed to change the appearance of many localities in the heart of the continent. And he continues to do this.
Like him, many other strangers, without waiting for the winter holidays to make an altruistic gesture, share their daily bread with those in need, support charities, smile at those around them or extend a hand to the fallen. Thanks to them, the world of many is becoming more beautiful. And that costs so little…