At Tearfund, we’ve always believed that broken relationships – with God, ourselves, others and creation – are the root cause of poverty. Our work with communities facing poverty and injustice must be understood as part of God’s wider work of restoration and healing.
Short-term interventions, like food aid and temporary shelter after a natural disaster, are important in providing immediate relief to those in need, but alone, they’re not sufficient to bring about lasting change.
That’s why we take a holistic, long-term approach to tackling poverty, recognising that needs are complex and interrelated.
Here are five ways our partners have been working with communities for many years to help make a way out of poverty.
Helping communities deal with underlying issues is much more likely to really transform lives, not just make them a bit better for the time being. That's why Tearfund supports the work of partners around the world in sustainable farming, helping farmers to build their resilience and ability to cope with an increasingly unpredictable climate. By learning new skills like crop spacing and post-harvest handling, farmers are getting more yields from their harvest so they can feed their families and earn an income.
Maker (pictured) is part of a Farmers’ Group supported by our partner ACROSS in South Sudan. Its members come together every three days to work on a piece of land that they jointly farm. Their harvest will be sold and will provide extra income to the individual farming families.
Education is transformative for children, their families and whole communities, helping people to be more resilient and able to take advantage of the available opportunities to make their lives better. But in many places in the world, a whole host of factors – including poverty, conflict, a lack of resources and infrastructure – can stand in the way of people getting an education, especially girls.
Rajna (pictured) is in secondary school. Her education was kickstarted when Tearfund’s longstanding Christian partner, the Diocese of Hyderabad, set up a primary school in her village. Now, equipped with the knowledge she’s gaining at school, Rajna assists at the female adult literacy centre that our partner also runs.
Many adults facing poverty never had the chance to get an education. Learning to read and write boosts their confidence and empowers them to access their entitlements and enjoy new opportunities. Rajna’s education is having a multiplier effect!
Many of Tearfund’s partners work with communities to set up savings groups, which are an important way for people to establish some financial security so they can both provide for the day-to-day needs of their families, and plan for the future.
Margarida Ana (pictured) has been part of the savings program run by our partner Oasis Mozambique for more than three years. Her savings have enabled her to purchase a commercial popcorn machine and start a business from home.
“Today I feel like an independent woman and I thank Oasis and the program for having changed my life,” she says.
Across poor villages and in urban settlements, preventable illnesses and disability are a major cause of suffering, a drain on family finances, and a barrier to building a more secure life. When these are avoided, families can focus on other things, like education and income generation.
In Phongsaly province in Laos, Tearfund’s partner World Renew Laos is supporting people to be actively involved in improving their health, talking to them about how to prevent malaria, the health problems that can be posed by open defecation, and the importance of safe rubbish disposal. Children have been learning about handwashing and the importance of hygiene through activities held by staff in the schools, and World Renew has worked with community members to construct toilets, resulting in noticeable improvements in people’s health – including a reduction in rates of diarrhoea.
High levels of stigma and discrimination of people with disabilities often prevent their full participation in community life. Tearfund’s partners run programs that help every person, including those with disability, to contribute to and participate in their community.
Kamal Kumar (pictured) lives with a physical disability as a result of childhood polio. He leads the Disability Persons’ Organisation (DPO) associated with Tearfund’s partner Emmanuel Hospital Association, in Agra, northern India, and works in a shoe workshop that our partner supports. The group teaches people about their rights, and helps their families to understand that they can learn and work.
The last few years have shown that the trajectory of global poverty is not set in stone. After decades of progress, the rates of global hunger and food insecurity are on the rise, driven by COVID, the climate crisis and conflict. At moments like this, the fight to end poverty can feel like one step forward, two steps back. And yet transformation still takes root – yes, slowly, but also surely – and lives are changed in meaningful, trajectory-shifting ways.