Generational poverty is when families grow up and live in poverty for at least two generations, usually more. It is caused by:
- Lack of education or educational resources.
- Geography (living in a low-income country or area).
- Not having a livable wage.
- Minimal or no capital (having extra money to use for investing or generating income).
- Living where natural disasters (especially floods) regularly wipe out homes (usually the poor live in less stable or protected housing). (from Freeing Children from Generational Poverty – Compassion International)
As you can see from our list of causes, generational poverty is not something that is the result of being lazy. So often we hear people say, “oh, they are just too lazy to get a job, that’s their problem”. Or maybe, if they didn’t spend all their money on alcohol and drugs, they’d have plenty. These people are simply parroting what they have heard from others who were too lazy to become informed. Your willingness to read this article shows that you are not in that category and have a desire to learn how to make changes.
Is it Possible to Break the Cycle?
It is possible to break the generational poverty cycle! According to the Oxford Department of International Development (1), there are three parts to poverty 1) Health 2) Education, and 3) Living standards.
John Rampton with Entrepreneur says that,
“Generational poverty sometimes results in the most damaging outcome—a perpetual sense of hopelessness… One generation follows another in a cycle of hopelessness. In the absence of hope and the belief that life can be better, motivation and energy are insufficient to break the cycle.”Generational Poverty: How to Break the Cycle of Poverty | Entrepreneur
Poverty is simply not just a matter of money.
How to Break the Cycle
The people who can help make this change are all around us, most simply don’t know that they can be the difference. If you are reading this, you have that bit of compassion that will enable you to bring hope, to kindle the light that will enable someone to make that change. That is what is needed, light-bringers, those who are willing to refresh another’s hope.
If a little bit of hope can be brought to each of the following four areas of a person’s life, that hope will grow and create the change needed. Everyone can find something on this list that they can help another person with.
Did you brush your teeth today, have you had a shower/bath? Many are denied these simple things or have never been taught. Things that many take for granted are things that others never learned. You may understand that fresh fruit has vitamins that help the immune system, but another person has never heard of this concept.
- Teach self-care. Health starts with cleanliness.
- Ensure that nutritious meals are available and that basic nutrition is taught.
- Provide clean water.
- Assist in receiving social support services such as Medicaid and grocery credits.
- Emotional health is important as well. A simple crossword puzzle can keep a mind active.
- Going for a walk can improve your health in body and mind as it relieves stress, too.
Education is often what makes the difference. Imagine trying to find your way through this world without being able to read or do math. Many do. Now, think of how impressive someone could be if they were able to take all that energy they put into coping with life without being able to read or do math into improving life with reading and math skills.
- Assist in developing personalized educational goals, formulate a plan, and offer support.
- Provide educational opportunities and teach vocational skills.
- Provide childcare assistance so that adults can attend classes and study.
- Tutors and mentors assist in overcoming obstacles and challenges.
- Help find ways to get a GED, if needed.
- Set future educational goals, this helps them see beyond the poverty they are in.
Improve Living Standards
Having something left over makes a huge difference in someone’s life. Is there still food left in the house after a meal? Are there other clothes to put on? Is there even a dollar left in your wallet after paying the bills? When there isn’t, people experience a “scarcity mindset” that traps them into a world of insecure thoughts and makes them feel incapable of meeting even short-term goals. They are unable to consider long-term goals such as college or a better job.
- Help them learn to save and invest.
- Teach ways to reduce stress.
- Build structure and consistency in their lives.
- Show them that taking risks and succeeding feels good and enables us to achieve more.
- Assist in creating a realistic budget. Introduce them to financial podcasts or blogs. There are many great ones that are free.
Improve Spiritual Strength (Hope)
I love this from John Rampton (Generational Poverty: How to Break the Cycle of Poverty | Entrepreneur) of Entrepreneur:
“Regardless of what you have done in life up to this point, you should be proud of yourself for making it this far. Every habit or mindset you have today that you want to change once had a purpose or reason for existing. In short, be kind to yourself.”
We all need to be kind to ourselves and share that kindness with others. How wonderful it is to help another improve and change their whole lives and that of their family!
- Provide a safe place to rest emotionally and physically.
- Listen to their concerns and setbacks.
- Cheer them on and celebrate their achievements.
- Build attitudes of gratitude.
- Help them see that they are valuable.
At Box Elder Family Support Center we offer classes to help you in all of these areas. We also provide child care and meals for children while you are studying and learning. There are people who can assist in financial education, Medicaid and other government applications, job search resources, and more. You can volunteer your time or money to help break someone out of generational poverty. You can kindle that hope, contact us today!
(1) Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (2018). Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2018: The Most Detailed Picture To Date of the World’s Poorest People, University of Oxford, UK