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How Small, Simple Actions can Lead to Poverty Alleviation

How Small, Simple Actions can Lead to Poverty Alleviation
For people who live in extreme poverty and do not have access to clean water, sanitation, health services, education or regular food supplies, any form of help can make a big difference. For example, building a well can greatly improve the standards of living of a whole community. There are other affordable and simple acts that can lead to poverty alleviation.

The following three examples illustrate how even the most humble form of aid can help a community develop and advance:

1. MALAWI – William Kamkwamba: Poverty Alleviation in the Form of a Book

When Kamkwamba was 14 he decided to build an electricity-generating windmill to power his family home in the village of Masitala. After the success of the first windmill in powering four lights and two radios in his house, Kamkwamba began to build bigger windmills in order to power more houses and pump water for irrigation.

Currently, Kamkwamba runs an NGO called Moving Windmills Project. The organization is involved in multiple projects from building labs for developing farm tools to providing secondary school scholarships.

All that was needed to create the first windmill were spare parts, scrap and a rented library book. The book that began it all was “Using Energy” from the NGO-run community lending library. Something as simple as building a library and providing access to books therefore led to great improvements in Kamkwamba’s community.

It was because of a single book and an individual willing to do something that a village that had formerly run on kerosene for power was able to obtain electricity. Imagine what would be possible if someone like Kamkwamba was given access to good building materials instead of scrap from the beginning.

2. INDIA – Joe Madiath: Poverty Alleviation in the Form of Instruction

Madiath is the founder of Gram Vikas, which means “village development organization.” The organization focuses on providing water and sanitation, community health, education and renewable energy to marginalized areas in India. TED Ideas Worth Spreading describes Madiath’s programs as “helping villagers help themselves.”

One of Gram Vikas’ most important programs targets water and sanitation. Madiath says the lack of toilets and infrastructure for waste disposal are “the cause for 80 percent of the diseases in rural areas.” As such, it is the lack of clean water and sanitation that prevents poor people from gaining the level of health that will allow them to break out of poverty.

The basic idea is very simple: Better toilets will lead to better lives. The methods for turning this idea into reality are also simple. Gram Vikas organizes and helps a village to build toilets, showers, an elevated water reservoir and the piping that will take water to taps in every household.

Materials for construction include rubble, sand, cement, steel and the actual toilet seat. Most materials can be found locally and the government helps with whatever the village does not have. This means that in the end, the community covers around 60 percent of construction costs for sanitation. In other words, it is the villagers who improve their community. All they receive is training and instruction from Gram Vikas.

In the 1,200 villages that have participated in the program, 400,000 people have benefited and waterborne diseases have gone down 82 percent. This shows that something as simple as providing training and know-how to people in poverty is enough to greatly raise standards of living.

3. MEXICO – Pablo de Antuñano: Poverty Alleviation in the Form of Opportunity

Antuñano works for Suma, an NGO that searches for talent in marginalized areas of Mexico City. The organization seeks to integrate youth into theater, cinema, sports, music and art.

By enabling youth who grew up in the street to participate in movies as paid actors, Suma prevents boys and girls from joining gangs or delving into the drug world. One Suma success story is Jonathan Monroy.

Monroy told Reforma newspaper he would never have known he was a good actor if it was not for Suma’s program. He gets inspiration from his experience growing up in the streets of one of the most dangerous areas of Mexico City.

Acting gives Monroy something to be proud of as he looks forward to the future.

The three examples above show that aid does not necessarily have to take the form of large sums of money or massive construction projects. Acts as simple and humble as providing books, a running toilet or an opportunity to act in a movie can transform a person’s life for the better.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr