Thursday, February 4, 2016

$3.10 Poverty Challenge

The Problem
According to the World Bank (2015), about 33% of the population in both Uganda and Kenya live on less than $1.90 per day and 63% live on less than $3.10 per day. Reading the figures is one thing; we shake our heads, comment “that’s too bad,” blame exchange rates or buying power, and turn the page with hardly a blink. Really understanding what it means to live in poverty—to live on less than $3.10 each day, to relate to the people we serve in developing countries—requires an all together different approach. This project is the result of much prayer and a lot of research about the $3.10 poverty lifestyle. In the end I will invite YOU to take the $3.10 Poverty Challenge.

At today’s exchange rate, $3.10 USD is equivalent to 10,800 UGX or 320 KES. Buying power between Uganda and the Malindi coast of Kenya, where I will live about a year from now, is about the same so we will use the Ugandan Shilling as we take a look at three very different lives and what is possible with $3.10 per day.

Julius’s Story
Julius is a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) driver in Kampala and works to support himself and his three children who live in the village with their mother. You can read the details of his story and how his money is spent in the separate blog post. We realized that if Julius was to live on 10,800 UGX per day, and if we subtract what is needed for food, Julius would have 6,100 UGX remaining at the end of the week. With that money, Julius had nothing more than morning tea to drink every day, he did not tithe, did not pay rent, did not care for his children. He was not sick, did not buy clothing, pay licensing fees or bribes. He did not have electricity or candles and matches, he did not have water and soap for bathing, and he did not have airtime. Not only could Julius not pay for the regular daily needs he could not manage if even the simplest inconvenience struck.

Carol’s Story
Carol sells vegetables in the market near my home and is the mother of four school-aged children. You can read the details of her story and how her money is spent in the separate blog post. We gave Carol 10,800 shillings for each of her children too, which meant that she alone had to earn 54,000 UGX per day for her family to live at or below the World Bank’s established poverty level. After subtracting for food, Carol would have 4,100 UGX remaining at the end of the week. With the 4,100 UGX that remains each week, Carol did not pay rent, pay school fees for four children including uniforms and requirements, provide medical care, transportation, airtime, buy clothing and shoes and wash them, nor provide any of the other little necessities of life.

Agnes’s Story
Agnes is probably one of those families living on $1.90 per day (1/3 of the world population, according to the World Bank) which is 6,000 UGX. Agnes is married to Pr Patrick and they have five children, they live on family land and survive on subsistence farming. You can read the details of her story and how her money is spent in a separate blog post. We assigned Agnes 6,600 shillings ($1.90) for each family member, which means she has to earn 42,200 UGX each day to live at the poverty line. After buying food and some charcoal for cooking and soap for cleaning, Agnes remained with 500 UGX each week. As I write, I know full well that the life Agnes leads makes it next to impossible to actually earn 42,200 in a day. None the less, Agnes has not tithed, put her children in school, or provided medical care, bought airtime, clothing, or met other typical needs.

Not All Poverty is Created Equal
With reputable organizations like the World Bank publicizing poverty levels in financial terms, we tend to think that all poverty is defined as a lack of food, clothing, and shelter. However, according to The Chalmers Center (2016), “Not all poverty is created equal.” My own observations within the East African countries support this idea. In reality poverty comes in many shapes and sizes—financial, social, emotional, spiritual—each form requiring a different poverty alleviation strategy. As material poverty is addressed, the social, emotional, and spiritual components of poverty ought to be integrated into alleviation strategies.

Corbett and Fikkert (2014) suggest three poverty alleviation strategies: relief, rehabilitation, and development. Relief is needed in situations where the materially poor require temporary and immediate outside help such as during natural disasters, medical emergencies, or personal traumas. Think in terms of severe drought—a prolonged period of below average water supply—or national insecurity where outside invaders murder and injure hundreds of people. Rehabilitation is needed in situations where the materially poor people participate in returning their lives to the pre-crisis conditions. They contribute to improving their own situation by, for example, digging wells, building water collection systems, or developing safety response protocols.

The development response to poverty alleviation is needed when people want to participate in improving their lives beyond what they have known or experienced in the past. The development strategy includes reconciling the four foundational relationships—with God, with themselves, with others, and with the rest of creation. People begin to recognize that God has given them gifts and abilities and that they need to use those gifts for God’s glory to support themselves through work which is a form of worship.

The Solution
I am not naive enough to think that world poverty is a problem I can solve single handedly. But Surprised by Hope is very decidedly a community development ministry. We recognize the difference between the need for relief, rehabilitation, and development and appreciate the value each strategy brings in the overall fight against poverty. Our place of serving, however, is in the area of development. Therefore, we provide the biblically based education and information needed to build the economic and spiritual capacity of local people who want to participate in improving their lives so that they can start and operate successful businesses using the gifts and resources God has given them.

$3.10 Poverty Challenge
To better relate to the people we serve, to understand what it means to live in poverty to the best of our ability, and to best serve them through Surprised by Hope, I am going to take the $3.10 Poverty Challenge. For 10 days, I will live on $3.10 or 10,800 UGX each day. What this means is that in everything I consume, I will not spend more than 10,800 UGX in a day AND I will continue to minister to God’s people in whatever way possible given these constraints (rather than stay at home doing nothing that requires energy or effort).

Here’s how you can get involved.

  1. Pledge $3.10 to Surprised by Hope for each of the 10 days I successfully complete, and challenge your friends to do the same. I would love to have 100 pledges.
  2. Take the $3.10 Poverty Challenge yourself and live on $3.10 per day, and find at least 10 people to pledge $3.10 for each of the 10 days YOU successfully complete.

WHEN: Any time between now and June 1. Funny, I can chose when it’s convenient to me to sacrifice for 10 days in a row, but those who actually live in poverty don’t get to chose when to start and when to stop. They can’t save their laundry till after the 10 days to avoid spending money on water and soap, they don’t have the luxury of waiting to purchase clothing until after the 10 days.

Make your commitment publicly on Facebook and email me to get more details.

The World Bank (2014). Poverty & Equity. Online at
The Chalmers Center (2016). What is Poverty? Online at
Corbett, S. & Fikkert, B. (2014). When Helping Hurts. Chicago: Moody Publishers.