Extreme Poverty Rich Stearns International Day

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Written by Heather Klinger on Oct 16, 2017 10:05:29 PM

WV employee walking with children

It is possible to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. And you can be part of it.

Poverty can be overcome when people join together. In the last 20 years, the number of children dying from preventable causes — from hunger and poverty and disease — has nearly halved, going from more than 30,000 a day to just over 16,000. For the first time in modern history, the world is coming to the collective realization that it is possible to completely end extreme poverty in our lifetimes.

Supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, World Vision is dedicated to keep this momentum going to help end poverty in all its forms, everywhere, by 2030. Together, our work is delivering lasting water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions to more than 10 million people; building improved and resilient livelihoods for 4 million smallholder farmers and their families; and eliminating preventable deaths among 4 million mothers and their beloved children.  

So in honor of the 25th annual United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns reflects on how we can all take steps to help people lift themselves out of poverty.

Walking with the poor
Rich Stearns

Now that I have a Fitbit, I’m acutely aware of just how little ground I cover on my own two feet every day. Sitting in my car on the way to work, sitting at my desk, and sitting in meetings doesn’t do much for my step count. (They say sitting is the new smoking!)

Actually, my wife, Reneé, and I love to take walks, and we do it every chance we get, walking in parks or around our neighborhood, wearing our sturdy-soled athletic shoes and hats, sunglasses, or jackets as the weather demands.

How different things are in rural areas of the developing world, where car ownership is rare and public transportation erratic. Walking isn’t something people want to do for exercise but have to do to get around. They must walk everywhere — school, farm fields, the market, church — and do so rain or shine. I’ll never forget my first trip to rural Kenya. As our Land Cruiser tooled along on roads out in the middle of nowhere, I was amazed to see people walking, many in flimsy sandals, some toting heavy loads, midway on their multi-mile trek.

One of the most urgent reasons to walk in rural Africa, especially for women and girls, is to collect water for drinking and bathing. The average distance they must go to a water source — and not usually a clean one — is 6 kilometers, about 3.7 miles. Since it’s impossible for a woman or child to carry all the water to meet her family’s daily needs, she must repeat the trip a few times every day. See photos and read about what this is like for 5-year-old Cheru, a girl in Kenya.

Poor access to clean water is something World Vision is working with a vengeance to solve. We’ve accelerated the progress of our water work so that we’re reaching one new person every 10 seconds — with a commitment to reach everyone, everywhere we work, by 2030. Children like Cheru deserve our best efforts.

World Vision is providing clean water in communities where we serve for a decade or more, working closely with local leaders and families, investing in their lives, and inviting our own hearts to be transformed alongside theirs. A good metaphor for this is “walking with the poor,” and it’s our philosophy of good development.

Former World Vision vice president and Fuller Theological Seminary professor Bryant L. Myers (who actually wrote the book Walking with the Poor) called this relational approach a “kingdom tool,” a way to emulate Christ, who walked in sandals among us.

Myers wrote, “We are to come closer, to walk with those who are suffering, left out, or devalued. We are to work with the poor and excluded as they seek a better life and treatment fitting those made in the image of God.”

When you partner with World Vision, you are walking with the poor, too. Mothers, fathers, and children feel your love and support across the miles. And with that comes a sense of God’s love. Knowing they’re not alone in their struggles lightens their load.