Leading a nonprofit that helps girls living in extreme poverty in Ghana, I’ve often been asked, “Why should I care or help people in other countries when there are plenty of people who need help here?”
I’m not going to pretend that this question hasn’t upset me a time or two, but I get it; it’s a good question. Our time is finite. Often, we have limited resources, while the needs around us seem to be endless. The Bible calls us to be kind and generous to those in poverty (see Proverbs 31:8-9, Proverbs 11:25, Proverbs 14:31) and we should want to do it wisely.
If you’ve ever struggled with this question or know someone who has, here are a few things to consider:
It Doesn’t Have to Be Either/Or
You don’t have to choose between helping those in “your backyard” and those who need help abroad in developing countries, often referred to as third world countries. At Hewalenamo, our staff and volunteers are passionate about our mission, but they are also passionate and involved in their local communities.
You can be involved in your own community and make significant impact in Ghana. For example, $15 may not go far in the developed world, but in Ghana it can purchase malaria prevention and provide school lunch to one child for a month.
Can we agree that the needs of the world are great? Because the need is great none of us have the capacity to respond to every need. However, God has given each of us the ability to make a difference. He created each of us uniquely and differently, but we each have good works to do here on Earth. God has prepared ways for you to help others and ways for me to help others. It may not look the same for every person. For me my heart is called to help girls affected by poverty. Another person may feel lead to help those who struggle with addiction or who have been traumatized by abuse.
We each play a part, a piece of the puzzle, to fulfill God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Suffering is suffering and it’s not a good idea to compare. But there is a difference between poverty in the developed world and poverty in the developing world. World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 USD a day. The majority of the students Hewalenamo serves live on far less than this.
The Ghanaian government provides education, but parents must provide uniforms, books, exam fees, and other fees that teacher may arbitrarily demand. What is difficult for many low-income families in developed nations to provide is impossible for parents who earn only 50 cents to two dollars a day. Thus, leaving many children uneducated and the cycle of poverty repeating.
God has great compassion for people living in poverty. He has also created a solution to address the problem…you and me! We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and that means both near and far!