Have you ever asked yourself the question – what is poverty and then tried to answer it in the simplest possible way?
The UN has an ambitious goal of ending poverty in all it’s forms, everywhere, by 2030.
This goal is one of 17 Sustainable Development goals set out by the UN in 2015. In last year, I made a commitment to read about, educate myself and teach my kids about the 17 Sustainable development goals or #SDG as set out by the United Nations and share what I learn right over here on the blog.
Initially, I wanted to focus on one goal per month and share our learning experiences right here. However, after I had a long heart to heart with A, we decided to rather focus on two or three goals a year and build a foundation of understanding in our kids.
A Sense of Entitlement amongst Kids
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen an article I shared recently. The article was about the importance of telling your kids you can’t afford a particular item. I believe our kids need to know we work exceptionally hard for our money. That nothing is handed to us on a silver platter. And in order for them to achieve the same things in life, they will need to adopt the same approach.
Naturally, I want my kids to be successful, hardworking, well-adjusted adults one day.
The last thing I want for my kids, is to battle financially!
That implies that I need them to understand what poverty is. I need them to know the different shapes of poverty. Most importantly, I need them to realise, choices have consequences.
The Adult Brainstorm
While I bounced my ideas off A, we came to the conclusion that there were two main things we wanted the boys to understand.
Firstly, we want them to understand that we need to work really hard for what we want in life.
Want to go to university? You better have good grades. Want to have a well paying job one day, one that allows you to look after a wife and kids? You better have a qualification that will put you in the right league for that job.
Secondly, we need them to understand – hard work doesn’t guarantee success and therefore, they need to help other people along the way.
The whole concept of teaching a man to fish comes to mind, doesn’t it? It really isn’t the intention and simply is not realistic for boys, age 7 and 13.
Having compassion towards the kids in your classroom is realistic. Being a positive example at school is a realistic goal for our boys.
The fact is, you have no idea what is happening in another child home after school or over weekends. The outer picture may be very different to the reality.
What is Poverty? The Kids Exercise!
Over the weekend we took the kids for a drive. The first stop was a relatively small (and safe) informal settlement or township. The second a poor suburb with dilapidated houses, and the last a rich suburb.
We gave them each a little printable and asked them to define poverty on the page.
Download the Printable and Use it with your Kids
1. The Informal Settlement
Naturally for my kids, the informal settlement was the ultimate picture of poverty! Yet, imagine their surprise when they saw an Audi A4, in nick condition, parked outside one of the shacks.
We asked the kids how they thought, people living in informal settlements ended up there. This led us into a discussion about
2. The Poor Suburb
The next stop, was a poor area in Pretoria, where people lived in dilapidated houses. The image was a little blurry for the kids! Some of the houses in the neighbourhood looked okay – similar to our house even. In-between these okay houses were houses in a sorry state.
Kids hung out in the streets, the clothing of some of the people in the area painted the picture of poverty.
Clearly, the boys could see the difference between the township and the poor residential area.
3. The Rich Suburb
When we drove through a rich suburb, we took them to an area with mansions overlooking the city. We pointed to the maintenance of the house and the state of the garden – they
Naturally, they could clearly define rich from poor in this area.
The conversation in the car, allowed us to ask the kids whether they thought all people in the area were rich. It also allowed us to ask, whether we kids understood that some of those houses were still owned by the bank and if the owners defaulted on their bond payments, the house could be repossessed.
4. A further Examination
While driving through the suburbs, we asked the kids to look at the people’s clothing, we discussed their lifestyle and what food people in that area eat.
All in all, I think we managed to confuse the boys.
Poverty isn’t clean cut and simple to understand. It is easy to live in our little world and ignore what is happening around us. It is so easy to assume, that my friend at school has what I have.
Or that they are so much better off than I am and become entitled and greedy in the process.
With our little exercise, we got the boys to think, we gave them permission to ask questions and hopefully we have simulated them enough to look at what is going on around them!
How would you explain poverty to your child?
Like I mentioned, this is not a once off post. If we want to instill a practice of gratitude in our kids and a sense of responsibility – we need to lay the right foundation. A once off conversation is not going to cut it.
How would you explain poverty to your child?