When Devaki’s husband was diagnosed with tuberculosis, an infectious lung disease, the doctor recommended he isolate himself from the couple’s young children. The advice made sense. It was also near impossible to follow. The family of four in Sri Lanka share a tiny, single room. There was nowhere for him to go—except outside. For two weeks, he slept on the dirt beneath a tree.
In Brazil, rainstorms make 10-year-old Lucas groan. His lives atop a large hill. The water pours down, flooding the sewers and forming a disease-ridden swamp at the base of his street. It cuts off his access to school.
Olive smiles in Uganda as a neighbour invites her to a family member’s wedding. Inside, her heart sinks. She doesn’t own clothes nice enough for the occasion. These days, food is more important than fashion. She hates that her absence will make her look rude. It feels too embarrassing to explain, though.
Poverty impacts every area of a person’s life. From their physical health, their thoughts, how they view God and themselves, their relationships, to their dreams and plans. No area is left untouched, but some aspects are more visible than others. Gain an insight into life in poverty as parents and children in Compassion’s programme share some of these realities.
1. You face impossible decisions
“We don’t have easy access to water so the days I fetch water, I cannot work. Many of us cannot afford [to pay for water] so we walk to the mountain and fetch water from a cave. We leave home at 6am and reach it at 12pm. Descending is easier, so the walk back only takes three hours. This water lasts us for two days.”-Olive, mother, Uganda
“When my husband had tuberculosis, he was told to sleep in another room so he didn’t pass it to the children. We do not have a separate area, so he had to sleep outside under a tree for two weeks.”-Devaki, mother, Sri Lanka
“I asked my mother to buy us a radio so I could keep up with my school lessons during the pandemic, even knowing we were struggling with our daily food. I wasn’t meaning to burden her but the only gateway for us out of poverty is our education. If that is compromised, then our dream also vanishes.”-Kidist, 17, Ethiopia
2. Relationships can suffer
“Sometimes I am not able to participate in social functions like weddings and burials because I have nothing to wear. I feel bad yet I cannot explain myself. When you feel you are stigmatised because of poverty, you tend to isolate yourself from other people.”-Olive, mother, Uganda
“It can feel like nobody cares about you, and you are not important at all.” -Angel, 11, Mexico
3. It’s hard to plan, let alone dream
“Everything is limited, including how big I dream about something. Everything looks narrow for me. Sometimes, my situation has prevented me from dreaming big or expecting something good to happen to my family.” -Frangky, father, Indonesia
“When someone is in absolute poverty, the reason they fail to plan is because they see nothing they can plan for. Since we joined the Compassion programme, I feel I am better than I was because now I can think, and I also own something, and I can plan. Before this, I would only think about the daily food to feed my family.”-Olive, mother, Uganda
“In the community I live in, access to higher education is very limited due to the high rate of unemployment. Many youth start working at a very young age to help their families. I grew fearful and hopeless, thinking that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to make my dream come true.”-Sara, 21, Nicaragua
4. You put your health—and even your life—at risk
“I don’t have the luxury of working from home during the pandemic. If I don’t physically appear at work, I am not paid. My biggest fear is being unable to provide for my children in this critical time. What if I contract the disease and then bring it back? But if I decide not to work, there is another calamity looming. It is a choice I must contend with every day.”-Anne, mother, Uganda
“Because of my job [as a recycler] I have been wounded by objects I found in the trash. The emotional impact is worse because you never know what you will find. There have been times when I have found human hands in the trash. I have also put my life in danger. I walk around the different neighbourhoods and many of them are ruled by the opposite gang that rules my neighbourhood. Once the gang members chased me out, shooting from a distance as a warning sign for me to not ever comeback.”-Orlando, father, El Salvador
5. You work long hours for little pay
“I have worked since I was a little girl. My neighbours paid me to carry water for them. When I was 13 years old, I was already working cleaning houses and when I turned 18, I started working in factories.” -Consuelo, mother, El Salvador
“I work multiple jobs, finding fish in the sea from 7pm to 11pm, and starting at 8am to work in my garden until 4pm. But I only earn around US $3.48 per day.”-Frangky, father, Indonesia
6. Basic essentials and rights become luxuries
“When the pandemic hit, I decided to help out on a pig farm. We received chicken guts to feed the pigs. So, I collected the nicer intestines to bring them home to my children, to cook and eat. Thanks to the Lord, the church supported me at the right moment. When we didn't have anything to eat, they came with a big chicken, and we ate meat for the first time in a long time.”-Yhovana, mother, Bolivia
“Poverty means skipping meals or not eating, so your children can eat.”-Orlando, father, El Salvador
“I used to fear being sent home because of [unpaid] school fees. When my father died, I thought that was going to happen to me. The embarrassment of hearing your name being called in front of your classmates as one of those who have failed to pay their school fees—I never wanted to experience that.”-Esther, 12, Tanzania
7. You are vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters
“Our community has a lot of hills. When it rains heavily, the streets and houses at the bottom of the hill flood. We can't go to school or to the Compassion project. The waters rise to our knees. Since the streets don't have proper sanitation, the rainwater floods the sewer, and it can result in many diseases for us.”-Lucas, 10, Brazil
“Whenever it would rain, I would be afraid. I always thought that if the house collapsed, we would all die.”-Olive, mother, Uganda
8. Heart breaking conversations are common
“When you’re living in poverty, itis hard to explain to your young children why they cannot have their basic needs. Children think you have what they need but are denying them these things. They cannot understand why other children have things and they don’t.”-Olive, mother, Uganda
“Every time one of our children ask us to buy them their favourite toy or something they like; we have to say no because we can’t afford it. As parents, this makes us very sad. I cannot even cook their favourite food for them. We can’t give them nutritious food so all four of them are underweight.”-Devaki, mother, Sri Lanka
9. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting
“When I was younger, we suffered from malnutrition. That made us very sad and very tired all the time. We wouldn’t talk much because we didn’t have the energy to hold a conversation.”-Jovanna, 10, Nicaragua
“It means seeking help in desperate moments. Trust me, I was very embarrassed to ask because I didn’t like doing so, but I had no choice.” -Orlando, father, El Salvador
10. It can push you away from God—or draw you closer
“At church, I was thinking they have prayed for me, but I have nothing to eat. How will I experience the love of God when I am in this situation? Maybe people who are okay can experience the love of God. I thought that I was not among the people God loves until people helped me to grow spiritually.”-Olive, mother, Uganda
“It makes you be closer to God. So many times, I have brought everyone together and said, we will give thanks to God because we have eaten. But I have also gathered them to say we will give thanks to God even though we have not eaten. It is hard to do. But we know we depend absolutely on Him and must give thanks to Him always.”-Orlando, father, El Salvador
“You learn to live holding God’s hand. He always helps us to move forward.”-Consuelo, mother, El Salvador
“It was through the Compassion project that I got to know the Bible and Jesus. And Jesus is all I have in the world. I’m free, even if my body is limited."-Josiele, 13, Brazil.
The effects of poverty can be devastating. Yet these children and parents are not helpless, and certainly not hopeless. Day in and day out, they show strength, resilience, hard work, and determination to escape from poverty’s grips. Their faith is inspiring. Their empathy, humbling. Their dreams can change their world.
It’s a privilege to come alongside them. Through Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Programme, our local church partners and sponsors all over the world are helping to support these families. Sponsorship provides a child with nutrition, medical care, educational support, and the love of the local church.
The resources, hope, and support a child receives are shared, which means one child’s opportunity can be an entire family’s breakthrough.
You can empower a child to achieve their dream of a different future by becoming a sponsor today.
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