Several years ago while in Haiti, I attended a funeral service for five children who had died from cholera the day before. During the service the preacher said something I will never forget. “These children died of cholera — but it was poverty that killed them.” He explained that the children would not have contracted the disease, let alone died, if their families had not been so poor. He said that disease is only one of the many ways that poverty kills the poor.
I have reflected on the words “it was poverty that killed them” many times since; every time, it deepens my resolve to fight human suffering at its very root. Breaking the chains of poverty that bind the poor has become a core component of Operation Blessing’s mission.
The other day I was telling a friend about OBI’s work and he said, “You deal with so much suffering … how do you stay sane?” I told him that I pray a lot and focus on what we can do. I do not spill fuel fretting about what we cannot do. I know we cannot help everyone but believe in the truth of these words by Mother Teresa, “If you can’t feed 100 people — feed just one.” In this month’s issue of Blessings there are several examples of the efforts OBI teams around the world are making to break cycles of suffering, one family at a time.
One of the most effective strategies that we use to fight poverty is to encourage and facilitate micro-businesses. Small home-based businesses are perfect for stay-at-home moms. Most mothers with young children cannot take a job outside the home, so they, like their mothers and grandmothers before them, are trapped in a never-ending cycle of poverty. In addition, poor families often lack the funds required to send their kids to school, so the next generation is likely doomed to suffer the same fate.
In this issue there’s a story about a woman and her sister in Israel that had a tiny business “turning trash into treasure.” They used scraps of broken glass to create artistic mosaics of angels and crosses that they sold to tourists. Their business plan was working, but profits were meager because they needed all their income to buy food for their families. They couldn’t get far enough ahead to invest in expansion or find the needed capital to purchase better equipment and supplies at wholesale prices. Our OB Israel staff heard about the sisters and investigated. Operation Blessing provided a small cash grant and the business really took off. Typically, it only takes a small investment to jump-start or expand micro-businesses that put an end to poverty.
Another story in this issue is about a home-based agriculture model in Rwanda that empowers poverty-stricken mothers to grow nutritious veggies plus earn some cash to pay for their kids’ school fees. It’s working great. We use similar agriculture-based models in Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Peru and other countries. In Guatemala, we operate a training facility and host women from the countryside for week-long training sessions during which they learn about raised-bed gardening, drip irrigation, organic fertilizers and pest control. Each woman also receives a starter kit of basic materials to help get her garden going. The results are astounding. The children from these families are healthy from eating the nutritious veggies, furthermore many attend school and receive health care thanks to the income their mothers make selling vegetables. These kids have a fair chance at better lives — lives free from poverty. The model is so good that OB Guatemala won a national competition for innovative microenterprise and secured a $50,000 cash prize they used to further expand the program.
I want to thank you for your faithful support of Operation Blessing that makes all this possible. Whether your donations are large or small, you are part of this work. Ronald Reagan said it best: “We can’t help everyone — but everyone can help someone.” Each one of you is living proof of that statement!