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Poverty Tag

When a crisis like COVID-19 hits, it is the poor who are hit hardest.

I bring you love and greetings from our global church partners and the team at UnitingWorld.

In this distressing time of uncertainty and change, if you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions – anxiety and hope; grief and determination.

Thank you for being our faithful supporters. Your generosity and compassion has changed so many lives. Every person you have helped out of poverty is in a better place to fight COVID-19 because of you.

Watch the full message below.

Want to share this with your church community? Click here to download via Vimeo.

Please remember our partner church communities in your prayers. They face the challenge of COVID-19 often without healthcare, sometimes without clean water or food.

This crisis will come and go, and we must survive it together. We need to be there for the long road to healing and recovery. Because we are people of hope.

Though we may be walking through the valley of shadows right now, let us do it hand in hand with God’s people everywhere. Because we know God walks with us, and that dawn will come.

I pray that you and your family be strong and courageous during this time, holding onto hope and health. And I beg that you stand with us, and remember the poorest and most vulnerable in our global neighbourhood. Now more than ever, they need your prayers and your support.

We’ll continue to keep you updated in the coming weeks.

In hope and determination,

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld


Video transcript

Hi. Like most of you, I’m stuck at home. I’m trying to get work done and stay connected with my colleagues, my family and my friends.

The COVID-19 pandemic means we are all facing a distressing level of uncertainty and change right now. I know that many of you are facing tough times, worrying about the health of your loved ones and what the next few months might bring.

And if you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions too – anxiety and grief; but also hope and determination.

If you’re watching this, you’ve probably been friends of UnitingWorld for a while. I’m grateful for our partnership in faith and service. We at UnitingWorld are praying for you. And our brothers and sisters overseas are praying for you. We know, because they write and tell us so.

I want you to know that the team at UnitingWorld are all safely back in Australia, and while we’re all working from home, they are doing a marvellous job looking after each other and staying connected with our partners.

Last week we shared public health information from the World Health Organisation with our partner churches – hoping they’d be useful for distribution in their churches.

The hardest thing I had to do this week was to read an email from my friend Rev John Yor from South Sudan. He wrote…

Dear Sister – Thanks for sending the information 

We are living by the grace of God because no awareness material has come from the government.

So I will copy the materials you sent and give some awareness to staff as well as groups who were displaced and are not aware of the Coronavirus or how to prevent it. But we have problems with the internet to send information and materials to others.

I am working now at night and water is a problem because it is carried by tanks not pipes lines. Hand washing is very difficult. Many are not able to stay at home because they will die by hunger if they do. They force themselves to go out to work, because there is no food stored at home. Even I don’t have food stored where we are living.

John’s words broke my heart.

When a crisis like COVID-19 hits, it is the poor who are hit hardest.

The people that our partner churches work with everyday are facing the challenge of COVID-19 without health care, internet or Newstart. Sometimes without clean water or food.

Now, more than ever, they need us to stand with them.

This crisis will come and go, and we must we survive it together. And we need to be there for the long road to healing and recovery.

Because we are people of hope. Though we may be walking through the valley of shadow right now, let us do it hand in hand with God’s people everywhere. Because we know God walks with us, and that dawn will come.

So, stuck at home we might be, but we’re rolling up our sleeves and digging deep. And we need you with us.

We’re in urgent conversations with our partners. Many of the projects you support have been put on hold, so we’re working with partners to redirect money and people to help prepare their communities and pass on critical health advice using their church networks.

We are assuring them that UnitingWorld and the people of the Uniting Church have not forgotten them, and are holding them in prayer. Please make that true, won’t you?

We’re planning how to keep ourselves and are partners fit and ready for the long road to recovery.

We’re talking with other international aid organisations and the Australian Government to prepare for what may happen in our region, to make sure that we can work together for best results.

We’re doing all we can to keep people safe. We have stopped all travel, and are no longer going into the office to work. While we will still respond to your emails and phone calls promptly (possibly in our pyjamas), responses to your post mail be delayed. It’s kept safe, and we will get to it, but we can’t access it every day.

Thank you for being our faithful supporters, for your generosity and compassion that has changed so many lives. Every person you have helped out of poverty, is in a better place to fight COVID-19 because of you.

I pray that you and your family be strong and courageous during this time, holding onto hope and health. And I beg that you stand with us, and remember the poorest and most vulnerable in our global neighbourhood. Now more than ever, they need your prayers and your support.

Thank you.

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

The World Day of Prayer this year is held on Friday 6 March.

The day is an ecumenical initiative that was started in the 19th century by Christian women in the United States and Canada to bring together women of different races, cultures and traditions for a annual day of prayer for international mission.

It is now a worldwide movement of ‘Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action‘ that promotes closer fellowship, understanding and action for international causes throughout the year.

The movement is initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions but the World Day of Prayer is an invitation to everyone.

This year the host nation is Zimbabwe, a country facing huge challenges:

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people in extreme poverty rose from 29% to 34% an extra million people living on less than $1.90 a day in just the space of a year.

An El Nino-influenced drought and Cyclone Idai reduced agricultural production over several seasons, worsening the situation across many rural areas. The economic contraction has caused a sharp rise in prices of food and basic commodities and one tenth of rural households currently indicated they are going without food for a whole day.

The unemployment rate has been estimated at 90%.

All of this has caused additional issues for the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe:

Human trafficking: Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Child protection vulnerabilities including child marriage, where 32% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18.
Gender-based violence (including sexual exploitation and abuse) – 35% of women aged 15-49 years have experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime
Disability discrimination: people with a disability have lower education and employment opportunities, are often unable to access health services, and are at greater risk of sexual exploitation and abuse

Despite these challenges, the Zimbabwean people are generous and resilient. They remain optimistic and are working to improve their nation. Our partners the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) and its relief and development agency, the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA) play a vital role in serving their communities and advocating for the people in national politics.

The World Day of Prayer is a call to pray for an end to the challenges facing Zimbabwe, but also to recognise and celebrate those who are working for peace, reconciliation and social transformation.

Please join us in praying for Zimbabwe and taking time to consider how we can seek closer fellowship and take action to support our neighbours there.  

Read more about our partnership with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

Find World Day of Prayer resources here

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has made a submission to the new International Development Policy currently under review by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The review was announced in December 2019 and invited members of the public and international development community to give input into the new policy.

UnitingWorld helped develop the UCA submission, and recommended that the International Development Policy:

      • targets the alleviation of poverty and inequality as a primary objective, understanding that this will best serve Australia’s national interests
      • prioritises development that is demonstrably owned and driven by the communities it seeks to impact
      • recognises the unique roles of churches and faith communities in delivering social change and seeks to target them as development partners
      • acknowledges climate change as the most significant cross-cutting issue that impacts security, stability, prosperity and resilience in Australia and beyond.

Read the full UCA submission here

UnitingWorld, as a member agency, also contributed to the submissions of the following coalitions: the Australian Council For International Development (ACFID), Micah Australia and the Church Agencies Network. (Click  links to read the submissions).

Submissions close Friday 14 February 2020.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice.

The new interactive video highlights the difficult choices faced by people working to overcome poverty.

The video follows the story of 15-year-old Rani, who lives in a remote costal village in Papua New Guinea. With limited access to reliable water, she must make difficult choices every day that put her health, education and safety at risk.

The interactive video aims to highlight how the restriction of choices in the developing world can be fatal, and how we in Australia can use our own choices to make a difference. Watch it here.

Give the power of choice

You can help communities like Rani’s by giving a gift before June 30.

Thanks to our partnership with the Australian Government, your tax-deductible gift can go up to six times further in saving lives.

As a partner of the Australian Government, UnitingWorld can access funding for certain projects to help us reach more people. In order to receive Australian Aid funding, we are required to contribute $1 for every $5 we can access. That means your gift goes up to six times further!

UnitingWorld is aiming to raise $450,000 this financial year to support our community development projects in Papua New Guinea, West Timor, Bali and Zimbabwe. Help us fund our partners and life-changing projects.

Click here to donate now.

Are you part of a church/community group? Click here to access fundraising resources to help us reach our goal!

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer and national church leaders respond to the 2019 Budget

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer has encouraged Australians to put the urgent needs of others ahead of short-term self-interest, after the Federal Government delivered its 2019 Budget.

The Budget has promised, all going to plan, $158 billion in income tax cuts over a decade on the back of projected Budget surpluses.

Despite the positive projections though, the foreign aid budget has again been cut, and there is no improvement for Australians relying on welfare payments, particularly the Newstart allowance.

“As the contest for hearts and minds begins ahead of this year’s Federal Election, I urge Australians to give priority to justice, compassion and inclusion,” said Dr Palmer.

“The Budget, if passed by a future government, may offer some welcome tax relief. But at what cost?”

“The bottom line in this Budget is there is less support for the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable nations, and less support for the most vulnerable at home.”

Aid agencies noted that foreign aid would drop to 0:19% of Gross National Income in 2021-22 – well below the short-term target of 0.3% supported by the Uniting Church and other advocates.

National Director of UnitingWorld Dr Sureka Goringe said the Budget failed both generous open-hearted Australian people and the vision of genuine regional partnership.

“We need to build trust and solidarity with our regional neighbours, working together to address inequality and injustice, not just pursue a narrow self-serving agenda,” said Dr Goringe.

Dr Palmer strongly criticised a $1.6 billion underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the coming financial year.

The Uniting Church President did however welcome a number of measures confirmed in the Budget.

“I applaud the boost for mental health and suicide prevention. This is important and timely. As is the confirmation of $328 million in funding to reduce violence against women and children.”

“I also welcome the funding set aside for a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect of people with disability,” said Dr Palmer.

President of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Rev. Garry Dronfield welcomed the allocation of $5 million for prevention of youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Unfortunately, it’s not enough to address the scale of crisis that we know exists,” said Rev. Dronfield.

“There needs to be funding for diversionary programs to keep our vulnerable young people from the dangers of incarceration.”

Rev. Dronfield also was concerned about the lack of self-determination in the extension to other Northern Territory and Queensland communities of the cashless debit card. “Choice should always be given to First Peoples,” he said.

Funding for co-design of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament was welcomed by Rev. Dronfield. However he noted: “If the Government had accepted the Statement from the Heart this would have been unnecessary.

Frontier Services’ National Director, Jannine Jackson welcomed extra funding of $5.5m over four years for mental health services for people in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland who have been affected by natural disasters.

“Given our recent and ongoing experience with drought, fire and floods we’re continuing to express our concern for the growing disparity between metro and remote Australia.”

“We hope that some of this funding and the overall increase on mental health spending will be accessible to those living and working in remote Australia,” said Ms Jackson.

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little has queried the Government’s priorities.

In a media statement issued on Budget night, Ms Little said: 

“A ‘surplus’ gained at the cost of allowing children to live in poverty, people with disabilities to go without the basic support they need, older Australians to die waiting for home care packages, and homelessness to reach record levels, does not measure up.”

Political commentators expect a Federal Election to be called as early as this weekend.

Last month, the Uniting Church in Australia published its 2019 Federal Election resource titled “Our Vision for a Just Australia.”

The Vision Statement outlines seven broad policy areas covering First Peoples, the environment, social inclusion, wellbeing, human rights, healthy communities and peacemaking. 

“Our vision, grounded in the life and mission of Jesus, is for Australia to be a just and compassionate nation in a world, where all can flourish.” said Dr Palmer.

“I urge all Australians to examine closely the policies on offer at the coming election, and hold those asking for their vote to account in building a just. compassionate and inclusive Australia.”

This statement has been republished from the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly article, ‘Shaping a Just, Compassionate and Inclusive Australia: UCA 2019 Budget response’

“But I still can’t get over how much God loves us, you know?” he says.

The distant softness in his eyes make me realise that the wonder of this truth has struck him before, but each time has the power to move him deeply.

I’m not in some exotic foreign land, connecting across cultures. I’m in the suburban Sydney home of an old friend, listening as he regales me with tales of his youth. In his twenties, he and his wife answered a call to practice medicine in a remote village in India, with two kids under two. A hospital raided by hyenas. They are now in their eighties, but the love of God burns brightly in them and they are faithful supporters of UnitingWorld.

It reminded me of the first time I went to India. I met Christians there who despite being less than one percent of the population and from the most socially marginalised castes, were extremely active in a range of social ministries. They ran schools, hospitals and fought human trafficking. And their leaders stood out for me. They felt a sense of urgency about their faith that I didn’t. Many of them came to faith in their teen years or young adulthood, and they still spoke with a sense of wonder of their discovery. They used phrases like “before I knew Christ” and “when I came to know Jesus” as if of a watershed moment of transition. When they spoke of the gospel, it sounded like this amazing, powerful, dangerous thing they couldn’t believe they’d discovered and couldn’t wait to share. They were not fresh converts, but seasoned leaders of the church.

The Christians I met in India assumed that people just didn’t know that God loved them, and that it was their job to fix that. They remembered how abruptly and miraculously God hijacks your life and sets you on a different path, and they just took it for granted this is what God wanted for everyone. Living in Australia, surrounded by people who live as if Christianity has been tried and found wanting, I have allowed myself to forget the truly radical and earth-shattering nature of the truth that I believe.

We belong to God. We are truly beloved just as we are, created in God’s image. We’re precious – of infinite value. There is grace enough to heal all our brokenness. Love enough to fill all our longing. This is what Jesus came for, lived for and died for – so that we could know this truth. And we don’t just believe it for ourselves but believe it for every other person near and far.

So we cannot rest while poverty, oppression and injustice keeps people from knowing God’s love for them. Because the love of God is not just a message to be heard, but a reality to be touched, tasted and lived; made tangible by the actions of God’s people.

At UnitingWorld, we often wonder how we can better share the life-changing stories we encounter, better inspire people to join in the global movement of transformation that is the story of God’s church at work. I’m convinced now that if I am to follow God’s call to act, I must again and again awaken the shocking recognition of who God has called me to be – a beloved child of God.

So, as I thank you for your faithful support, I also wish for you a moment of wonder and awe. That you can pause and say, “I still can’t get over how much God loves me” and let that incandescent truth set you on fire.

-Sureka

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld

 

UnitingWorld is fundraising to support our transformative partnership with the church in India, where poverty holds so many people back from their God-given human dignity. We’re aiming to raise $115,000 to help our partners provide education, shelter, pastoral care and HOPE in some of the most difficult areas of rural India.

Your donation will make a huge difference in the lives of the resilient and determined people we work alongside. Click here to donate now.

(Top pic: Dr Sureka Goringe and Dr Deidre Palmer with delegates at the UnitingWorld Southeast Asia regional workshop on gender justice)

Here’s an interesting fact.

In 2016, a  survey of ordinary Aussies by the Campaign for Australian Aid found that most people believed the Australian Government was spending about 13% of our total budget on foreign aid.

“Way too high!”  the people shrieked.  “What about those in need here in Australia?  The homeless?  Our elderly?”

Fair enough. 13% is quite a lot… So if it were left up them, what did most people think was a reasonable percentage to spend on foreign aid?

On average?  Most people thought around 10% would be fair.

Say what? How much?  Yep: 10% of the Australian budget to be spent on foreign aid.

There’s a massive black hole between public perception and reality in the debate about Australian aid. Average Australians regularly state we give ‘too much’ to foreign aid.  Those same people think we should give ‘about 10%’.

Australia actually gives much less than 1% of its budget to foreign aid and its getting less every year.   

We give only 22 cents in every hundred dollars to life-saving vaccines, providing clean water and vital medical assistance.

Yet even such a tiny amount is helping us make some stunning progress toward overcoming poverty.

  • 2 billion people have been lifted out of poverty and the proportion living below the absolute poverty line has halved.
  • An additional 110 million children are in school, and over 90% of all children at primary level are now enrolled
  • Child deaths have been cut by half.

Australian Aid has contributed to much of this good news.

Imagine what we could achieve if we gave anywhere near the amount that average Aussies think is ‘reasonable’?

So how can you help create the change we need to see on this issue?

Post shouty rants at the Australian Government on Facebook?  Um, no.

  1. Join the Campaign For Australian Aid here and let your local politicians know that you care about supporting our neighbours to lift themselves out of poverty.  It’s good for all of us.
  2. Donate to projects that are supported by the Australian Government’s aid program.  This lets the Australian Government know you support well-administered, accountable aid.

Right now, the Australian Government wants to know what you think of us. They’re prepared to support us with significant funding, but they want to know you’ll back us with your own money first, because you know us best. For every $5 they make available to us through Australian Aid Funding, we need you to show your commitment with a donation of at least $1.

This is a big opportunity to show the Australian Government you care about Australian Aid funding and want to see it increased. And it will allow us to make your gift go up to six times as far this end of financial year.  Please make your gift here – and thank you so much!

To see how your donation will change lives in powerful ways, watch our new video here.

“Rough day at work, hey?” says my fifteen year old with a grin when she comes home and notices the first draft for our upcoming UnitingWorld campaign.

We don’t believe in charity,” declares my scrawl on a large sheet of paper, folded in two.

It’s a tagline probably worthy of the raised eyebrow. For years when they were younger, whenever other kids asked our girls what their parents did, they tended to reply that we ‘worked for charities.’ It was easier than explaining the ins and outs of overseas aid or social entrepreneurship here in Sydney. Everyone gets the concept of charity: “Generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill or helpless”. Good stuff, right?

“Open it up,” I tell Jem. “You have to read the next bit.”

Inside: We don’t believe in charity. We believe in solidarity.

 Ah,” says Jem. “Nice.”

“We believe in solidarity.”

None of us want to be regarded as ‘charity cases.’ We’d much rather just be people – with strengths and weaknesses, sure – but always essentially just people. Charity is a beautiful word of course – it’s always meant love and brotherhood, generosity, kindness. But it sometimes feels like it also has overtones of pity, distance: “I’m giving because I feel sorry for you, and you’re so helpless, so here: please take this.” Even better than charity, I think, is solidarity – the idea that our equal and shared humanity is what matters most, even if the details of our experience are sometimes quite different.

Eduardo Galeano wrote: “I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”

Solidarity recognises that beneath the cards that life has dealt us, we’re equally human, with equal strengths and weaknesses, even if they’re vastly magnified by our circumstances. Making the quiet effort to redistribute our resources is a respectful (if inadequate) attempt to recognise this. You could argue it’s just semantics, but I think it’s actually important.

In West Timor I met Betcy, a mum probably around my age.

Betcy has four children, and although she’s functionally blind she used a low interest loan from the Church of West Timor to start a small business selling used clothes and saved enough money to build her own home. It has almost-reliable electricity, a shared bed for the three boys, and a brand new water tank to safeguard their often-dirty water supply. When she speaks about the dreams she has for her children (another small loan to send her eldest to university to study engineering, for example), and when she proudly shows me the wardrobe where her children hang their school uniforms, or shyly grins at the antics of her eight year old daughter chasing the family dog – we share one of those wordless ‘mum’ moments. That’s about all it takes.

Betcy and her daughter

I come home here to my house with the two bathrooms, the car that conveniently beeps as I mow down my recycling bin on the way to my children’s excellent schools, and Betcy stays with me. She’s with me in the knowledge that I have a huge amount of practical resources to share, simply because I was born in a different place, through no merit of my own. She’s here in the knowledge that resilience, courage, love and aspiration are universal, and that my children are not the only ones who deserve to have those dreams nurtured. She’s alongside me in the certainty that “poor people” are not helpless – they’re determined, creative and capable. And they may be in some cases geographically removed, but they share many of my life experiences.

Most especially, I realise that any one of us could be Betcy if the world tilted its axis just a fraction and the lottery of birth placed us somewhere where rains stubbornly refused to fall or life is shattered in a hail of bullets; if our parents had to choose between sending us to school or finding us work to do to help keep the family fed. All of this knowledge and the shared humanity it points to – that’s solidarity.

This knowledge changes how I live, what I think, how I use my money and my time. Before you offer me a sainthood, I’m a reluctant learner. Always.

Does this lead to generous acts and donations? Hopefully. But not just edge of my life, got-a-bit-left-over donations from pity. Ideally, this is using the resources I have in an attempt to express genuine respect for people who are fully human, fully deserving of the same opportunities as me and my family, and fully able to make use of them. Giving money this way might mean I go without something I’d kinda like. Because three quarters of the world go without things that kinda-keep-them-alive, and they have every much a right to that life as I do.

For me, solidarity will always be more meaningful than charity. So no, Jem, it wasn’t a rough day at work. It was another good one, and I’m grateful as always for everything I learn with UnitingWorld and with our partners in West Timor, Fiji, India, China, Vanuatu and South Sudan. Most especially, I’m grateful for the confronting and motivating fact of our equal, beautiful and shared humanity. I’ll continue to learn and be challenged by how to respond to it.

– Cath

Support determined, creative and capable people freeing themselves from poverty by making a tax-deductible donation to our End of Financial Year campaign before June 30:

To be totally honest, I didn’t think a beauty salon business was going to make the most compelling ‘poverty alleviation’ story I’d ever seen. Um – why are people in this highly disadvantaged part of the world popping off for a manicure? Surely they have better things to be doing with their money?

This, I confess, is the narrative running through my sweat-addled brain as we haul up in a hilly neighbourhood outside West Timor’s capital of Kupang, where motorbikes clog the winding streets and the air is thick with humidity. And then I meet Ana and Aron, clearly delighted but also a bundle of nerves to host us in the small home they share with their four year old son Ryder (…I know. I’m not sure where that came from, but Ryder is wearing Power Ranger shorts pulled up to his chin, and he’s entirely awesome).

It’s a beautiful house, tended with loving hands. Stones line the paths; there are handmade shell windchimes and mobiles; plants and colourful pots are carefully arranged around the door. Whatever else you think you know about ‘people living in poverty’, plant this one right here: creatives are creative no matter where you find them and how much money they have to “spare”.

Simple humanity is a complex thing to deal with. Taking in the scene of creative domesticity before me, a handmade wind-chime hits hard: you are like me. You value beauty and self expression. It’s life-giving. You’ll fight to preserve it no matter what.  And that makes you no longer ‘other’ – the poor West Timorese woman – but a mum like me, finding the hopeful and the happy, the quirky, in the midst of the mess.

Many of us are curiously reluctant to acknowledge simple humanity in people who have less – the right to leisure time, investment in beauty, choice.  Somewhere deep and un-named there’s a sense that surely every cent, every moment should be spent surviving. Yet here’s the truth: the same tiny fires of elation are lit in hearts everywhere by things we all share – the joy of making something perfect with your own hands; the first smile of a child; sunsets, stars and potted plants.

These are the vital reminders that we are all human, equally wonderful and worthwhile but not equally resourced. Why? A simple toss of the dice places some of us here and others there. And this is a deeper challenge to us than simply being able to hand out cash or charity to ‘the deserving poor’ – for whom we can feel sorry because they’re so unlike us. It serves up some bigger questions and unsettles us deeply.

Ana, it turns out, has a spinal birth defect that means she stands only 1.3metres tall – she’s tiny and has struggled all her life with pain. She walks a little unevenly but she’s tenacious. Her husband Aron and son Ryder both have eyesight problems – Aron is functionally blind and Ryder has recently had cataract operations. He turns his head like a little bird to follow the sound of our voices and gallantly attempts to see us using his unaffected peripheral vision. The three of them sit close on a bench outside their home and tell us about the business they run together.

Beauty and massage, they tell us, are the heart of their work – hair cuts and shampoos and sometimes nails; massages for tourists and people who need them for health reasons. Not everyone in West Timor lives on $2 a day. They came up with the idea because Aron is good with his hands and can work easily without sight. He has a mobile phone, fully voice equipped – while we’re talking he takes a message and lines up an appointment, shyly chuffed to be able to show his business in action. He has strong hands, Ana tells us, also proud of her husband. And her passion is for cutting and styling – people will always need haircuts.

The low-interest business loan the pair manage through TLM – the social services agency of the Protestant Church in West Timor – was a godsend. It meant the family could turn a small profit – afford Ryder’s cataract operation, restore the well that is their only water supply, invest in the equipment they both need for their businesses, and also to plan for the kind of schooling Ryder will need as a child with a disability.

Because make no mistake about it – life for people with disabilities in the developing world is beyond tough. No social security. No NDIS. No respite, counselling or advice from experts. Ana, Aron and Ryder are pretty much on their own in a city where eating means working – crooked spine, sightless eyes, whatever your challenge.

Here’s what’s impressive about this model of poverty prevention: microfinance loans give people the skills and confidence to run businesses in a vast range of areas, doing stuff that they know other people need. It allows them the dignity of real work – and in Ana and Aron’s case – creative work that gives them what’s clearly a certain amount of joy. And why should we, in the ‘let’s go to Uni, choose our careers and live happy, fulfilled lives’ be the only ones to experience that? Why shouldn’t Ryder, in his hand-me-down Power Ranger pants, have the same dreams as our own kids?

Here’s the confronting truth of the human condition – any one of us could be Ana or Aron. Opening our hearts and hands to this reality is freeing – helping us to live with solidarity, generosity and simplicity; assessing how much we really need to be happy; and where and how we find beauty. It’s in standing together to bring life to each other that we discover what it means to be fully human.

UnitingWorld is a valued partner of the Australian Government, receiving flexible funding under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) each year to implement development and poverty alleviation programs overseas. Every donation you make to this project will be combined with funding from the Australian government to reach more people. We have committed to contribute $1 for every $5 we receive from the Australian government. Your donation will allow us to extend our programs.

That means your gift will go five times as far toward ending poverty and providing dignity for families like Ana and Aron’s in West Timor, Bali and Zimbabwe.