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  • Writer's pictureDivyesh Pala

How to emerge from poverty

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Mother Teresa’s definition of poverty catches the essence of the issue. According to her, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted and uncared for is the greatest poverty of all”. I couldn’t agree more that it is this feeling “of being alive and yet at some level being dead to the world” that allows a person to try and exist but not to live.

The million dollar question is, can we do anything about it? Or are the poor and destitute condemned to their fate, cruel and unjust as it is, and nothing can be done about it (there is a surprisingly large number of votaries for this line of thought and not all of them are unsympathetic towards the poor. Their prognosis is based upon practical considerations).

The answer to this question is an emphatic yes, and it is a crying shame that people are still debating the issue. The last three decades have seen the reduction in the number of poverty stricken people by a mammoth 650 million people! In the year 1997 the United Nations General assembly had declared the period 1997 to 2006 as the first United Nations decade for the eradication of poverty and much has already been achieved since then. What is crucial in the fight against poverty is the realization that action needs to be taken on two fronts. The first is the reaching of aid and sustenance to the sick, undernourished and dying, who do not have the wherewithal to even survive leave alone think of emerging from poverty. The second is to provide access to education and training to the poor, to enable them to begin their fight against poverty.

National governments, NGOs, the private sector and social organizations need to pitch in and pool resources and expertise. Under the aegis of the United Nations Development Fund for example, residents of Sudan’s River Nile State are adopting new agricultural practices that have helped villages, increase crop yields and manage climate change. This has resulted in greater food security to 15.3 million people.

As a poverty survivor myself, my perspective is of a micro level. In my opinion the first step towards emerging from poverty is our refusal to accept our circumstances and believe (without having seen) that there is possibility! I recall a time when we had moved from being totally homeless to a small room in a slum and when I was (for the very first time) faced with being told that my little sister wasn’t going to make it. Why? because of poverty, malnutrition and the fact that (a) the world had given up on us, (b) the country had given up on us, (c) the Doctor had given up on her and (d) my mother due to being too ill and too weak and having lost four children previously for the same reasons, had given up on her and in a way on us as well. She brought the baby home and said, here she is, she’s got approximately three days to live and that’s it.

It’s when that shock hit home that I decided that I would not accept this and that I was going to fight. I had no idea that another world existed that was different from mine (I was a beggar and knew nothing better). I had no idea that people even had better houses or food to eat or happiness, I had no idea that children had toys or played games at home. I had only one idea, and that was on finding a way out of these circumstances? I didn’t think of money or wealth or being famous or doing anything great, I just wanted to rise above our current circumstances and somewhere deep down; I knew that I had the potential to make it happen. As Barak Obama says “focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realise your true potential”

While inspirational quotes like this allow people to think about these things, the fact is that such people are not educated from within (As within so without). It’s the neurological understanding that makes the greatest difference. A person who is extremely poor with no hope, no education, or partial education may consider himself or herself abandoned, lost or discarded. If they are instructed about the technique of thinking positively, the course of a their life can be altered (As a man thinketh, so is he)! No amount of courses on beliefs, passion, focus, desire or hope can achieve this. Once I learnt this process myself, I made it my holy mission to pass on the benefits of this process to as many people, as I could. We all have been given by God, the gift called “the human brain”. This can be self-enhancing or self-denying; it will work for or against you and will gravitate in the direction you steer it in (intentionally or unintentionally).

A few very simple and essential skills that go with this education could help a person achieve anything they want (what the mind can conceive, it can achieve)! In the words of Maya Angelou “I can be changed by my circumstance but I refuse to be reduced by it”. Refusing to allow your circumstances to reduce you to the point where you truly believe that it is your fate; it is what God wants for you and it is what you accept to be your destiny is what will set a person free. The key is to think of how these same circumstances can propel you to success, motivate you to change and move you from being in a stop -position to becoming unstoppable.

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