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Poverty Revolution Bootcamp—helping Londoners rethink poverty
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By Haydn Jensen

You've likely heard that a good education leads to a good income. The same can be said about helping people in poverty—good education can help them earn a living wage as well. Surprisingly though, the most important education can often start with people not in poverty. Living in relative affluence as a culture, it's easy for us to "buy our right to go on with our day" and miss opportunities to understand and respond to poverty needs locally and globally.

It was this thinking that prompted Ron Burdock, Director of Global Outreach at North Park Community Church, to invite Melissa Giles from Food for the Hungry to lead a "Poverty Revolution Bootcamp". Wanting to equip people in how to best engage with poverty allieviation and to understand the root causes of poverty, Melissa spent a day and an evening in June leading about 30 people through discussions and exercises to highlight important misunderstandings and realities around poverty. We had a lot to learn!

Food for the Hungry (FH) defines their purpose as "ending poverty one community at a time." They are a Christian non-profit organization walking alongside the most vulnerable communities throughout the developing world as they strive toward sustainability. The organization recognizes that each community faces unique challenges as well as advantages.

FH is committed to an integrated, holistic approach to development, including priorities such as agriculture, education, health, and gender equality. Their activities include child sponsorship, emergency relief, community education, food security, savings and loans groups training, and biblical worldview training through events like the Poverty Revolution Bootcamp. These workshops give us a chance to examine our own ideas about poverty and check them against real world information.

We learned that our good intentions and generosity can easily do more harm than good if we respond before learning enough about a given situation. Additionally, we learned that our faith perspective plays a vital role in how we learn and understand situation. As stated in our bootcamp workbook, "Our understanding of people, culture, resources and poverty ultimately flows from our understanding of God – through our relationship with God and God's revelation to us in the Bible. We must respect others and their worldview, while also realizing our call to truth."

Early in the workshop Melissa suggested, "How you define a problem will determine the way you solve a problem." Because we seldom research every issue before forming an opinion, our motivations on how we respond can easily be misinformed. Impoverished thinking can result when we assume things to be true without proof.

Melissa gave us a simple but effective example I'll try on you: How big do you think Africa is geographically in relation to other countries? Could you fit the USA inside Africa? What about USA and China? How about the USA, China and India? Now, take a look at this. Many of us learned from maps showing continents out of proportion to each other. If we had incorrectly assumed Africa was physically smaller than it actually is, might this lead us to see issues relating to Africa as less important on a global scale?

Ideas have consequences. During the workshop, Melissa showed us how...

Our ideas influence our beliefs
Our beliefs influence our values
Our values influence our behaviour


We also learned that when addressing situations of poverty, it's generally wise to avoid assuming you know what's going on. When we ask ourselves, "Am I going to 'do for' or 'learn from'?" this also helps us to relate better to those around us in vulnerable circumstances. Poverty, we learned, is in essence a relational issue. Whether global economies or family units, broken relationships can lead to many kinds of poverty. We saw the spiritual connection to this idea through a quote from Bryant Myers' book, Walking with the Poor,

Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.

By addressing poverty as an effort to restore or reconcile broken relationship, we can see the parallel between this approach and the biblical teaching of God Himself seeking to restore and reconcile broken relationships with us.

The event was called Poverty Revolution Bootcamp. As the name suggests, the event was challenging in that it pushed us to rethink poverty and how we address it in our world. The real bootcamp, however, likely comes in how we respond personally. That is the hard part! Our last session challenged each of us to consider our next "Action Steps"-how we will serve, invest, educate, and connect differently. At the end of the bootcamp, we heard how Northpark is active in the London area working among the most economically vulnerable. Many other Londoners are doing the same.

You will find a wealth of ideas and child sponsorship opportunities online at Food For the Hungry Canada: www.fhcanada.org, by emailing info@fhcanada.org or phone 1-800.667.0605