Is this the face of poverty?
If I hadn’t been standing right there in this child’s Nicaraguan village, snapping her photo under a blazing hot sun while perspiration seeped through my clothes, I never would have guessed her difficult circumstances.
I wouldn’t have known that she lives in a house with no bathtub, no toilet, and no running water; that she walks to the local river to bathe; that she probably suffers chronic dehydration and diarrhea from the parasite-infested water she drinks; that three meals a day are a luxury she doesn’t always get to enjoy; and that her cute outfit was most likely donated.
Later, I was told that this was probably the cleanest the children of Rancho Pando had ever looked. That’s because they knew we were coming, and they wanted to look their best for us. They don’t want to be known as “those poor people.”
It’s easy to understand why.
When a guest visits my home, I don’t trash the rooms and dress my family in rags; I get out the vacuum, straighten the clutter, and make sure my son doesn’t have chocolate all over his face. I like to show off my best. But for some reason, we often forget that the poor share this same concern for self-respect. We forget their God-given human dignity.
Maybe that’s the key word for Cross Catholic’s mission in Nicaragua. Dignity. The great thing about our partner, Amigos for Christ, is that they don’t just give hand-outs. They empower poor communities to take control of their own future. Their message is, “If you will work with us, then together we can change your lives by installing a system that will pump clean, drinkable water to every doorstep. You will take ownership of that system, and your dedication to this project is what will sustain it for generations to come.”
As we move forward with our campaign to bring clean water to Nicaraguan villages, our focus is not, “how can we help the poor,” but rather, “what can the poor accomplish with our help.”