I have often found myself drawn to the idea that we’re living in a generation where ending extreme poverty could possibly be within our reach. In fact, I am encouraged by research information from the World Bank indicating that many experts believe it might be possible to end extreme poverty in a generation. In the past 30 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half. In 1981, 52 percent of the world's population lived in extreme poverty (defined by the U.N. as living on less than $1.25 per day). But today, that number is less than 26 percent.
My heart breaks each time I come face-to-face with families living in poverty in the areas Amor serves: Mexico, South Africa or the San Carlos Apache Reservation. And it is hard holding back tears each time I stand and witness the “key ceremony” at the completion of each home. Although, the picture may look bleak, it’s encouraging knowing that Amor has been transforming and impacting one family at a time for the past 34 years building 17,600 homes with over 330,000 participants.
While homelessness in Mexico may take us a life-time to eradicate, the possibility to end extreme poverty on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona and in Botlang, South Africa is within our reach. The San Carlos Apache Nation, which is approximately 90 miles from the Phoenix area, is the third largest reservation in the state of Arizona with a shocking unemployment rate of more than 75%. This reservation boasts a population of some 16,000 (over half of which are under 18) and is the 10th largest Native American reservation in land area. Amor is working to end homelessness on the reservation by providing homes to 1600 families.
In South Africa, despite proactive government policies and progress made since independence in 1994, the country has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. Almost 10 million South Africans live in poverty housing characterized by vast informal settlements known as “townships” surrounding modern cities that resemble the most developed in the world. Occupants of townships (mostly black South Africans) often live without adequate services in overcrowded shacks pieced together with cardboard, corrugated iron, and scrap wood.
Since 2008 Amor has worked alongside the local church in South Africa to bring reconciliation and housing. Recognizing the same need that inspired our work in Mexico for the past 33 years, Amor has returned to South Africa each summer to build homes. While the South African government provides some kind of housing allowance for poor families, the backlog on the waiting list is almost twenty years. In the area that Amor works alone, there were 56,207 people and 13,391 households living in Delmas-Botlang according to the 2001 Census. Here too, we can help bring an end to poverty by building 3000 homes alongside poor families. Imagine a young mother applying for a house when her baby is born, and having the baby go to college before the need is met. Imagine the change you can make in that kid’s life by helping him to be raised in a warm, safe home. You can get involved today by praying, fasting, giving, keeping this discussion going or coming on an Amor short-term mission trip to build hope. Follow @scottcongdon