Have you ever seen poverty? I thought I knew what it was. My mother grew up in Appalachia, and visits to relatives in the mountains used to sadden my father because it reminded him of where she came from. I saw the shacks they had for houses. My aunt had no indoor plumbing and had to go down to the creek for water. Sometimes she ate squirrel or possum. That was poverty...at least until I began my travels into developing countries. One village in particular changed my perspective forever.
I drove through the Andes mountains in Peru at an elevation higher than most airplane flights. The adjustment to the altitude was going to take some getting used to. I was heading to a village whose very name in the Quechuan language means "the village that has nothing." And they have plenty of it. Many of the children's faces are scarred from extreme temperatures and vitamin deficiency. Further evidence of their poor nutrition was revealed when they held the coloring books I gave them so close to their faces just so they could see. Many were already going blind. Sewage ran through the streets of the village, and people washed their clothing in the creek where they washed dishes, threw their trash, and where the waste eventually ran.
But when a woman came to us asking for help, my eyes were finally opened. She told us that the muscles in her back were tight like fists, and they caused her great pain. She wanted to see if we could help make the pain go away. She was wearing several bulky sweaters to keep out the cold, so it was difficult to know just what was causing her pain. But upon examination, we discovered the "fists" of muscles sticking her in the back were not muscle at all, but bone. The bones were practically pushing through her thin flesh. She was literally nothing but skin and bone.
"What did you eat today," we asked. "I make a paste of a spoon full of flour and water. That is what I eat every day," she replied. I swallowed hard. Back in my safe world, even the dogs have enough to eat. In fact, we treat them quite well. How can this be possible that a woman is starving to death when we spend a fortune on our pets? I had to step away to cry. Not just any cry, but the hardest and deepest cry I ever experienced. This was poverty. And I felt ashamed that she should experience this kind of pain when we have the power to change it.
So I set about raising money to buy animals for this little village. Cows to provide milk for the children. Pigs and chickens to provide meat and eggs. No one should starve to death if we have the power to change it. Now there is a little farm run by the church in the village. Those in need can get food and milk. If you want to help, you can donate funds to buy farm animals for our villages.