What Poverty Looks Like

Last week, a man brought a learner into the staffroom, where a teacher proceeded to talk to him for about ten minutes. I assumed the learner was in trouble for something. However, the teacher was speaking gentle to the boy, and I glanced over and saw tears running down his face. I knew something was not right then, though the quiet Setswana conversation was beyond me.

Once he left, I asked another teacher why he was there, and I was not prepared for her answer. The man brought the learner in because he had caught him eating grass in the veld. The teacher showed me the grasses and some sort of seed pods he had collected to eat and said something about his parents being poor.

I tried to not let the shock show on my face, nor let the tears loose from my own eyes. I knew that people in my village were poor and went hungry. I knew that kids came to school year-round without shoes because they could not afford them. And I knew that the one school meal may be the only food some children get, and certainly the only nutritious meal. Yet I realized that day that it still hadn’t been real to me.

Until I saw a boy, probably around 12 years old, crying in the staffroom because it had been discovered that he only had grass from the bush to eat, I didn’t realize what hunger really meant. My heart was breaking for this kid, and the others like him who have no food at home.

I found this out with about 10 minutes until I had to be in class, and I had to work hard to compose myself.

I recently told a friend that I thought I knew what poverty was back in America. However, after moving to Africa, I have realized that I had no clue. You can see emaciated kids on magazine covers and on tv, and never really have it sink it. But until you have one of these precious kids in front of you, so obviously struggling, you can’t fully understand it.

This has renewed my desire to help with the school gardens, as some of the food is given to the orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). I’m now excited again for the Permagarden training that I will be attending next month, and hope that I can make some changes in my village to help provide food for these kids.



About Jen Lamos

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Gardener. Keeper of Chickens. Daughter of God.

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