Adelante Foundation's Blog

Poverty: This is a word that each person defines differently. We are often found guilty of associating the word with a certain image of poverty, particularly reflected by what we see on TV. The images of the starving children in Africa, or the commentary on the “lazy” homeless American do not accurately represent the world’s poor. By limiting the term to just what we’ve seen in the media, we develop a misguided view of what poverty really is, and make uninformed judgments regarding the poor.

Misconception #1: You can’t have those things if you’re poor.

Poverty comes in several forms and doesn’t necessarily mean complete and utter destitution. Instead, it means that an individual lacks the money to achieve a certain standard of living. How a person chooses to use the money that she makes is up to her. Those choices don’t define whether or not she is poor. Owning a television does not mean that a women isn’t poor, nor does it mean that she is incapable of managing her money. The TV may have come into her possession for a variety of reasons, and can be considered a fairly inexpensive investment to provide her family with entertainment at home. I’ve met many clients in rural areas that own a TV, and almost all own a cell phone. Even with these possessions, it is clear that these women and their families continue living below the poverty line. The overall living conditions of Honduras’ poor continue to be severely inadequate and most struggle between continuing their children’s education or sending them to work. 

Misconception #2: Unintelligence and incompetence explains it all. 

The poor are often viewed as unintelligent and incompetent primarily because of their lack of formal education and forms of employment. The assumption that the poor are unable to make sound financial decisions stems from this perception. This attitude is incorrect and harmful. Intergenerational poverty reduces the opportunities that the poor have access to, including education and adequate employment. Contrary to this negative misconception, I have found that intelligence and competence are at the heart of Adelante clients’ success stories. I’ve heard countless stories from women about how they started with nothing, but now have larger, profitable businesses. Many of these women didn’t even have the chance to finish primary school, but have a lot more business knowledge than I do- a college graduate. When we look at the poor as being unintelligent and incapable, we come to believe that we know what’s best for them.

Misconception #3: If you’re not skin and bones, you’re not poor. 

When thinking about poverty, we often confuse the word malnutrition with starvation. Starvation afflicts many people around the world as a result of food deprivation – meaning the starving person does not have access to enough food to get by. On the other hand, without enough money, a woman and her family are likely to be malnourished, meaning that while they are consuming food each day, their diet lacks certain vital nutrients. While they are not starving, the food that is being consumed is not providing them with adequate nutrients to keep them healthy and productive. We often find it difficult to reconcile the high rates of obesity among the poor. Unhealthy food is cheap, filling, and easily accessible all over the world, including Honduras. Why do Hondurans often consume high-carbohydrate meals including tortillas, plantains, rice, and beans? These foods are easily accessible and provide a more filling and cheaper alternative to vegetable-based dishes. This explains the high rates of obesity among the poor not only in Honduras, but around the world.

When working with the poor, it is necessary to have a comprehensive idea of poverty. By limiting your definition, you not only ignore a significant number of individuals living in poverty, but you’re also more likely to criticize the choices these individuals make on a daily basis. This disapproval prevents us from gaining a deeper perspective on the challenges of poverty and focusing on effective poverty alleviation strategies.

This blog post was written by Development Assistant Asma Modi based in La Ceiba, Honduras. Asma received her BA degree in International Studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and started working with Adelante in January 2014.

Last week I had my first field visit to Choluteca, Honduras- the place I like to call the Texas of Honduras. The dry, hot climate and hospitality made me feel right at home. All that was missing were cowboy boots and country music. Although I joke that Choluteca is similar to home, going out to the field and visiting clients reminded me that I was very far from the comforts of Texas. 

What surprised me the most about my visit wasn’t the drastic change in geography, or the noticeable poverty- it was the strength of the women I talked to. One client in particular stood out to me. Consuelo has been an Adelante client for two and a half years, and sells hammocks for her business. She moved with her family from the department of Olancho to Choluteca seven years ago to be closer to her husband’s family a year after he suffered from a stroke that left him bedridden.

Along with her responsibilities related to work and her husband, Consuelo also has to take care of her two children. Her 17 year old daughter lives at home and helps care for their home. Her 13 year old son is enrolled at the local secondary school. When I asked her about her business, Consuelo stated, “I work to support my family”. If she wasn’t selling hammocks, her family wouldn’t have an income.

Long after I had finished the interview with Consuelo, I couldn’t stop thinking about her story. Even with her many difficult tasks, not once did she complain about or show resentment toward her situation. I was blown away by her courage. While sometimes it seems that taking care of myself is hard enough, Consuelo balances working, taking care of a handicapped spouse, and supporting two children at the same time – without letting the difficulties get the best of her.

Despite the unbearable heat, my trip to Choluteca was just another eye-opening experience in Honduras. Speaking with Consuelo and many other clients showed me that strength comes in many forms. I have always found myself in awe when I meet clients, but this visit to Choluteca has really stood out. It takes an incredibly strong person to be able to go through these hardships, tell the story, and still have a smile at the end of the day.

This blog post was written by Development Assistant Asma Modi based in La Ceiba, Honduras. Asma received her BA degree in International Studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and started working with Adelante in January 2014.

In a small roadside community along Honduras’ Northern Coast, Ana’s family is finally breathing easier. Just recently, she’s made several improvements to her family’s living conditions. With a Home Improvement Loan from Adelante for $768, she was able to expand her kitchen area and install a new roof. While at it, she decided to build her own eco-stove too. Like most of our clients, Ana relies on a woodstove to prepare her family’s meals each day. For a family of six, that means a lot of firewood. 

Knowing that quite a few organizations had partnered with politicians to distribute a variety of these stoves ahead of elections in November, I was interested to hear more. Asking her who she had worked with to install the stove, she stopped me proudly to make a correction – “I didn’t work with anyone – I made it myself!” She quickly added, “Look I even made this little oven to bake bread,” gesturing to the side panel of the stove near the pile of wood. 

Throughout rural areas of Honduras, the use of woodstoves is very common because of the high cost of gas and lack of electricity. Even those who have just bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling or even a TV, don’t have the electric capacity to power an electric stove. I’ve visited many client homes where an electric stove is left neglected in favor of the inexpensive traditional woodstove. 

For many of our clients, traditional woodstoves are the only option for everyday cooking – and they aren’t going anywhere fast. However, they do acknowledge the detriment that these kinds of stoves bring to their health – including lung cancer and heart disease. There’s also no denying the negative environmental effects through the depletion of Honduras’ beautiful forests, to the reduction in air quality through the emission of smoke. 

That’s what makes eco-stoves so vital here today (and all over the world). While she does not see transitioning to a gas or electric stove as a viable option for her family, Ana has built a more efficient stove that uses less wood and has a long chimney that keeps her kitchen free of dangerous smoke. With three children still in the house between two and twelve years old, Ana is now able to provide them with a safer living environment. 

In the future, Adelante would like to set up strategic partnerships to promote clean cookstoves in the areas we work. In the meatime, we commend women like Ana who take the initiative to do so on their own.

This blog post was written by Adelante's International Development Coordinator Gina Cappuccitti based in La Ceiba, Honduras. Gina received her BA degree in International Relations from SUNY New Paltz and started with Adelante in August 2014. 

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