• Poverty. And a large frappuccino to go.

    Posted by Matt

    11 December, 2012

    When you think about poverty, is this the kind of image that comes to mind?

    For as long as most of us can remember, these types of images have been used by non-profit organisations to show us what poverty looks like for millions around the globe.

    But the face of poverty is changing rapidly. Though rural poverty still exists, urban growth has contributed to an increasing number of people living in urban poverty. By 2020, roughly 1.4 billion people will live in informal urban settlements and slums.

    In these pictures, I’m standing next to a man who has been forced to rebuild his home three times in 10 years thanks to frequent typhoons in the Philippines.

    That day, he told me that every home he rebuilds is smaller than the last. His current home was a 5x3m shack, made from bamboo, plywood and scrap metal. The one-bedroom shack was home to his whole family: two parents and six kids under 16.

    But as appalling as the condition of this home was, it was the location that was most disturbing.

    In my travels, I've seen people living in some of the most unimaginable ways and places. But I’ve never seen a dilapidated shack standing right around the corner from... a Starbucks.

    That's right, only a short walk from this family’s struggle to survive you could order your favourite double shot capp, skinny latte or soy frappuccino.

    This is the new picture of poverty, and the injustice is more painfully obvious than ever.

    This year, Australia is expected to spend more than $37 billion on takeaway food. To ensure every child worldwide received primary school education, UNESCO estimates it would cost $16 billion. Yet 20 per cent of young people in developing countries still don’t complete primary school, and lack essential skills for the workforce.

    In the West, we’ve managed to send our finest brands and products to the very same communities that the world’s poorest of the poor now live. But somehow we find it difficult to send support: emergency relief when disasters like typhoons strike, and long-term development aid.

    As our two worlds collide, the difference between the rich and poor is becoming more and more striking. We can no longer pretend that poverty is something that exists far away from us, when in reality it’s right on our doorstep, next to our favourite coffee shop.

    In the wake of the Phillippines' most recent disaster -  Typhoon Bopha - I  encourage you to pray for and act on behalf of those who are suffering because they have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. With hundreds of thousands of people needing water, shelter and food, here is an opportunity for us to put love into action. 


    Matt Darvas, is Compassion’s Child Advocate Network (CAN) National Coordinator and a member of Micah Challenge's Campaign Strategy Group. Matt regularly writes on issues of justice on his blog www.mattdarvas.com. 

    This blog was first written for Compassion Australia's website and can be viewed here.