10 Ways Rwandans Define Poverty

During my work commute, I often like to listen to podcasts instead of music. I often listen to a podcast called “48 Days” by a guy named Dan Miller. You may know him from his book, “48 Days to the Work You Love” and his company, 48 Days LLC. Dan Miller is a speaker, writer, and life coach and his niche is helping people, you likely guessed, find and do work they actually love. He’s influenced me significantly as I learned from him that’s it’s not so unreasonable to desire and even expect to do something I love for a living. You can find his website and books at 48days.net. Anyway, he does a new podcast every week and I always enjoy listening. This morning he shared something fascinating.

He shared an excerpt from article called “Stop Helping Us!” by a man named Peter Greer, the president and CEO of Hope International. You can find the article here. In his article, Greer cites a survey where he asked people living in Rwanda how they would define or explain poverty. Let’s remember that Rwanda is considered Third World by most. They are primarily rural farmer communities, though this has improved as of late. Their literacy rate has jumped roughly 20% since the nineties. Also, infant mortality rates have fallen. While about 80% has access to modern healthcare, there’s only one doctor per 50,000 people.

I pulled this information from Rwanda’s Wikipedia page which you can find here.

In light of that, here’s how a group of surveyed Rwandans define “poverty”

  1. Poverty is an empty heart
  2. Not knowing your abilities and strengths
  3. Not being able to make progress
  4. Isolation
  5. No hope or belief in yourself. Knowing you can’t take care of your family.
  6. Broken relationships
  7. Not knowing God
  8. Not having basic things to eat. Not having money
  9. Poverty is a consequence of not sharing
  10. Lack of good thoughts

Greer goes on in his article to assert that, in light of what these people actually consider to be poverty, our traditional methods of “giving to charity” fail to address the actual root of the problem. Money doesn’t help someone know what they’re good at nor give them hope or belief in themselves that their situation could change, Greer says.

Notice that money was mentioned only once. I find it fascinating that a developing country such as Rwanda would place so much more value on psychological and sociological values rather than simple material needs. It shows what they view as valuable and necessary and draws into question what we view as valuable and necessary for a meaningful life. Take this same concept and apply it overseas here in our world. Does the government handout help people in poverty here? I won’t draw any stark conclusions or make any bold statements from this, at least for now. Today, I only wanted to share this thought because I found it so fascinating.

What about you? What do you consider valuable or necessary for life? How would you define poverty? Let me know in the comments below.


5 comments on “10 Ways Rwandans Define Poverty

  1. Kate says:

    I have some potential interesting comments to make here! Well, I’m a bit tired so I won’t make them all now, but I’m doing a PD at school, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. Because, as you likely know, my school is in a very disadvantaged community. And we’ve talked about how people in poverty are laking resources, but not material ones, well, basically it’s much the same as you listed above. I will maybe comment to you properly tomorrow when I have my sheets from the PD in front of me and I can tell you exactly what the resources are. And also we have talked a fair bit about how we as educators cannot change a lot of the things going on in a child’s life but we can give them an education that will allow them to have choices when they grow up.

    I guess maybe my point is that I think placing value on psychological and sociological needs before material needs is universal. And I agree that money also cannot fix or fill people’s immaterial needs. But also, if the money is building a school and training local teachers, then I’m totes for it.

  2. Kate says:

    Okay, I have my notes!

    Ruby Payne, author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty, defines poverty as the varying degree to which individuals lack the following resources:

    1. Financial. Having money to purchase goods and services.

    2. Emotional. Being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self-destructive behaviour. This is an internal resource and shows itself through stamina, perseverance, and choices.

    3. Mental. Having the mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing, computing) to deal with daily life.

    4. Spiritual. Believing in divine purpose and guidance.

    5. Physical. Having physical health and mobility.

    6. Support Systems. Having friends, family, and backup resources available to access in times of need. These are external resources.

    7. Relationships/Role Models. Having frequent access to adults who are appropriate, who are nurturing, and who do not engage in self-destructive behaviour.

    8. Knowledge of Hidden Rules. Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group.

    9. Formal Register. Having the vocabulary, language ability, and negotiation skills necessary to succeed in school and/or work settings.

    So, a bit different from what the Rwandans said, but it definitely reminded me of it.

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