Poverty StoplightFundación Paraguaya has developed a tool to help families self-assess their poverty level and develop a personalized plan to improve their status.

Named the Poverty Stoplight, the initiative uses technology and various methodologies to create a custom poverty elimination plan, breaking down an overwhelming situation into smaller, more manageable problems and putting families in charge of their situation.

First, families take an online visual survey to determine their level of poverty. They are assessed on six different groups of poverty indicators: Income and Employment, Health and Environment, Housing and Infrastructure, Education and Culture, Organization and Participation and Interiority and Motivational.

Through a technology software developed by Hewlet Packard, each family receives 50 poverty indicators of red, yellow or green (red = extreme poverty, yellow = poverty, green = not living in poverty). For instance, fetching water from a contaminated river is an extreme poverty/red indicator, while having a water faucet in the house is a green/non-poverty indicator.

Trained members under Fundación Paraguaya work with each family based on their strengths and weaknesses in each category. The mentors make families aware of the tools they have within themselves that can be used to build a life out of poverty.

The Poverty Stoplight technology also provides information on neighbors who are not living in poverty and may be able to help them build homes and businesses.

The goal is to disrupt the typical cycles families in poverty go through, improving their status for their children and future generations.

The Paraguayan Government has been using the technology to refocus social workers on the main problems contributing to poverty.

A Google map overlay of Poverty Stoplight families highlights main poverty contributors, such as lack of proper vaccinations, clean water or proper sanitation. This overview allows social workers to provide the proper help to families in need and give them a jump start towards a better life.

Poverty Stoplight has had much success in helping impoverished families build a better life. In its first three years of operation, they have been able to help the welfare of around 18,000 families (92,000 people).

USAID has been a big contributor to the program, providing $500,000 in funding alongside other donors (who donated a total of $1 million). “This replicable project illustrates how relatively small amounts of foreign assistance can generate promising, tangible steps toward reducing poverty,” notes USAID.

Based upon a family’s motivation and the skills they have, a plan can be constructed to not only reduce their level of poverty but to eliminate the poverty cycle altogether. The customization of the project and effectiveness of the technology is what makes Poverty Stoplight as promising as it is.

Casey Marx

Photo: Pixabay


In Paraguay, where the poverty rate is 35 percent, the challenges of providing strategic and meaningful aid seem overwhelming. However, the Poverty Stoplight, a newly developed technology to help families self-assess poverty in their lives, is transforming communities.

In the words of Martin Burt, founder of Fundación Paraguaya and creator of the Poverty Stoplight, the technology “enables poor people to self-diagnose their own level of poverty in 30 minutes using a smartphone or tablet.” The app works through a survey that utilizes images as well as a color-coded system to identify extreme poverty with red, poverty with yellow, or no poverty with green. Families complete the survey by examining their poverty level in a number of different areas: Income and Employment, Health and Environment, Housing and Infrastructure, Education and Culture, Organization and Participation and Interiority and Motivation.

These six categories encompass 50 different indicators of poverty in Paraguay and therefore provide a multidimensional understanding of the circumstances faced by families in disadvantaged areas. Once they receive their results, families work with local community support to come up with a plan for improvement in red or yellow areas.

The international community also recognized the Poverty Stoplight for its efficacy in supporting gender equality. Many of the aid plans for families in impoverished communities include microfinance efforts to provide opportunities for women as well as training to reduce sexual harassment. Thanks to the technology of the Stoplight, many Paraguayan women are lifting their families out of poverty as owners of their own micro-franchises.

The color-coding mechanism of the Poverty Stoplight works beyond helping families describe their living situation by creating maps of countries, regions, even neighborhoods, that reflect the level of poverty in any given category. These maps help struggling families to identify others who face the same challenges or those who may have already overcome them, providing an opportunity for support and mentorship.

The Poverty Stoplight maps also allow governments and aid organizations to more fully understand the problems in these areas so that strategic plans can better support those who need it. By encouraging people to think of themselves “less as beneficiaries [of aid] and more as empowered agents of change,” the Poverty Stoplight is a respectful, insightful, and exciting tool for change.

In 2014, with only $1.5 million in donations and funds, the Poverty Stoplight helped improve the welfare of 18,000 Paraguayan families, an estimated 92,000 people. The low-cost nature of the technology, as well as it’s comprehensive strategies for assessing poverty in any given community, make it incredibly versatile.

As this revolutionary tool continues to eliminate poverty in Paraguay, it is migrating to other regions around the world. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 18 different countries have already integrated this new technology into their support initiatives, demonstrating the name Poverty Stoplight is quickly making for itself as a means of revolutionizing our modern strategies for identifying and alleviating poverty.

Kathleen Kelso

Photo: Flickr

Amigos de Las Américas
Amigos de Las Américas (AMIGOS) was founded by youth pastor Guy Bevil in 1965 when he and a small group of young adults landed in Honduras to administer polio vaccines in isolated, rural communities.

He knew that people lived off the beaten path, and wanted to provide health services for those who would not normally have access to them. Nearly 50 years later, his philosophy is strongly upheld in the organization.

Amigos de Las Américas has a mission: to make young people leaders and improve underdeveloped communities while doing so. Volunteers are high school or college aged. Summer programs are generally four to nine weeks in length, though college students can take a gap semester or year. All must have a base level of Spanish and an interest in changing the world.

Over 700 volunteers received training in leadership and specific community development projects annually. Volunteers are placed with host families, which gives them a chance to improve their Spanish, learn about the host culture, share their own culture and further integrate into the community.

Accepted applicants to the program must pay a program fee; 80 percent of this goes to cover travel, additional housing and meals. The remaining 20 percent is used for the organization’s administrative expenses.

AMIGOS operates in nine different countries: Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica. Community development projects cover a wide range of services, but are largely dependent on AMIGOS partners.

AMIGOS partners with locally based organizations, often nonprofit, to ensure that its volunteers are doing effective and needed work within a community. There are 25 partners in total.

Organizations like Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca in Mexico and Prodia of Peru, work mainly in health services, sanitation and nutrition awareness. Fundación Paraguaya and Panama’s Ministereo de Deasarollo Social provide investment services in local projects and individual enterprises. Fútbol con Corazón provides workshops on nutrition and life skills to more than 2,000 children in Columbia. This is in addition, of course, to soccer training.

Some might ask why AMIGOS focuses its efforts on Latin America when there is poverty still in the United States. The organization says it builds leaders, and that the compassion and leadership skills learned while on programs abroad are brought back to the U.S.

— Olivia Kostreva

Sources: AMIGOS, Go Overseas , US Gap Year Fairs
Photo: Vimeo