Saturday, June 29, 2013

Poverty Perspectives

I have been very interested in looking at poverty during my stay within Uganda. I participate in service to the impoverished in St. Louis and Atlanta, so I often observe the attributes and scale of the poor within this country. Poverty is definitely pervasive in many areas that we have observed. Yet, my perspective of poverty shifts with the area and the people that I interact with. For example, while Justin, John, and I were walking in Kampala, a young boy, who was about 13 years old, briskly approached me with his palm-up and arm extended towards my face. We walked side-by-side with for about 10 m before he realized that we would not give him any money. We also saw individuals who were motionless while lying face-first on the sidewalk blanketed with dust and people who were too busy to pay any attention. It was a strong message that demonstrated the level of poverty that can be reached throughout this area. 

            While in Ishaka, I have experienced similar instances of people asking me outright for money, such as a man with bumps and dirt studded on his hands, arms, and face that grabbed me by the arm while walking to the market. Although many of the locals here may be impoverished, I have noticed that the difference is that they seem to be satisfied with what they possess. They do not make their monetary difficulties apparent even when the conditions of the environment surrounding them may suggest otherwise. They believe wealth is present in different respects. I remember Mr. Kakunta, the head collaborator in our research, told us “I do not have any money, but I am not poor.” He was referring to the idea of wealth in community. He described the resources that others had given him when he had to go to the hospital for an illness and how the relationships he had with others can have a value greater than money. Also, obtaining an education is crucial and presents knowledge as a form of wealth. An education not only impacts pecuniary aspects by being able achieve better employment, but also increases your status and respect amongst others in the community. Observing the cultures and practices while in Uganda has broadened my perspectives on many topics that can be compared to the U.S. Viewing wealth from these perspectives has shown me more about the people here in Ishaka who often live simply and encourage me to be stress-free.

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