Poverty: What Does That Really Mean?

Poverty is a construct. The poverty of today is not the same poverty of 100 years ago. Why? The reason is fairly simple: what is considered as "poverty" is based on different numbers and statistics. We classify the level of poverty and which people are considered as "living in poverty" based on an imaginary line. That line has moved over time as the cost of living changes. Therefore, the number of people who receive assistance or support is directly connected to their place above or below the poverty line. When we live in a world where the combined wealth of 26 billionaires is more than that of half the planet, we see the statistical gap between rich and poor growing wider and wider. 

The Humanitarian view of poverty is not so cut and dried. We tend to have a more holistic approach to what we consider poverty to be. To put it simply, anyone who struggles with covering basic needs (i.e. housing, food, healthcare) are experiencing a form of poverty. When looking at the world through a humanitarian lens, there are a lot more people who are "living in poverty" and shouldn't be. The situational reality is more important than an arbitrary line. The world has enough resources for all of us to live good, decent lives with health and prosperity for the future. Nobody should experience any form of poverty. 

Those who are living in poverty face many different conditions and circumstances, such as: certain food items are not accessible at all or are more expensive than in more affluent communities; access to clean water is difficult to find and expensive; finding affordable housing or housing at all is a challenge; fewer job opportunities due to transportation obstacles; lack of access to quality education; and less exposure to clean air and community development providing spaces with access to nature and good soil for growing food. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging around the world, even more people are experiencing poverty. In countries like the US, there are many people who will not receive the label of "living in poverty" or qualify for assistance when measured against the poverty line. However, their reality of not being able to pay their rent or buy food cannot be ignored. 

At One World Center, we believe in putting people first and that nobody should be left in need. When we look around, we see the need for people from different walks of life to come together and forget what statistics tell us about poverty. In solidarity, we need to make the changes we want to see in the world. We hope to accomplish this with our new Shoulder to Shoulder for Change USA Volunteer Program along with our Volunteer Abroad Programs. These programs are meant to encourage you to learn about community building, learn from other people, and take a more active role in helping create positive change around you. 

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