It was early, the sun had not yet risen but the roosters had already begun announcing dawn’s impending arrival. The usual clanging of pots used for gathering water could be heard both far and near as the ladies of the village prepared themselves to collect water. On most days, everyone made multiple trips to the river to draw water, unless it rained in which case rain water was gathered in every available receptacle. On those days when it rained, there was an almost audible sigh that could be heard. At least on that day of rain, their arms wouldn’t ache from having to draw and carry water home from the river that was several kilometers away.
The children woke slowly to the sound of their mother’s pots. Husbands prepared themselves to work their fields of maize, squash, and other locally consumed vegetables. Everyone hoped this year’s rains would bring better times. The past years’ rains had been sporadic. Sometimes the rains were too heavy, others too light. Either way, the community suffered through months of hunger. In decades past, the rains had been reliable and food plentiful, but that was no longer the case. The months of drought before harvest were now called the “season of hunger.” It seemed the hunger was lasting longer and longer every year.
Hunger in the Cities
Families began moving from the safety of the village to the larger cities in hope of finding work that would help feed their families. This migration to urban areas did little to assuage hunger. Rather, hunger was intensified as populations in the cities mushroomed. There wasn’t enough work in the city to accommodate the need of so many new tenants. Mothers who hoped their children would go to school and do better found themselves with problems far greater from what they had encountered in the villages. Their children began to wander the streets searching for food only to be pulled into prostitution or human trafficking.
The Question of Poverty
This scenario has repeated itself time and again in Africa; the problems of intese poverty and insecurity plaguing the most vulnerable: women, children, and the elderly. The answer to the question how to eradicate intense poverty and suffering we face here in Africa and other parts of the developing world is too complicated for one simple blog to answer.
Those of us working in these situations feel the weight of the suffering of those living in these situations daily. Some resort to begging on the streets of the larger cities, others will steal, and yet others will resort to prostituting themselves just for a piece of bread to feed their children. For those of us living in a situation where our next meal is sure, it is easy to pass over them and say, “Get a job.” What can they do in situations like these in the developing world where there really aren’t many jobs at all? Where can they go? What can they do?
Today as we woke to the crowing of the roosters. As we made our way downtown, beggars lined the streets. A thief later tried to open our car door and little children, who ought to be in school, stood by their mothers working to earn a little money sweeping the streets. This is an everyday occurence here and it still moves me. I’m moved to do more, try harder, and find help for the few that we can reach.
What difference does it make to help only a few instead of thousands? It makes a difference to those few. Perhaps among them will be found a leader who will, in the future, be the catalyst for change. While the need swallows me daily, so does God’s grace. He gives strength when we have none and provision to touch those we can.