Ending Extreme Poverty in Santa Barbara, Peru

Mothe rleader in Peru

A sustainable way to end poverty is to train mothers like this to teach other mothers how to better care for their families.

When I tell friends that the goal of Food for the Hungry is to end extreme poverty, I sometimes get strange looks. “What do you mean, END poverty?” Is that even possible? While it’s true the definition of poverty varies from country to country, the characteristics of extreme poverty are unmistakable. Extreme poverty is a soul-crushing existence marked by constant hunger, unstable shelter and a lack of basic needs, both physical and emotional. Learn more about that in our free ebook, The Remarkable Truth About Ending Extreme Poverty.

Thankfully, extreme poverty is a solvable problem. And I am happy to say that thanks to the people and programs at Food for the Hungry—including child sponsorship—ending extreme poverty is a very real and achievable goal. How do we do it? One community at a time.

Food for the Hungry helps communities like this, perched on Peruvian hillsides, to improve health and safety so children can thrive.

Food for the Hungry helps communities like this, perched on Peruvian hillsides, to improve health, education, infrasturcture and safety so children can thrive.

One example of such success is the town of Santa Barbara, a community in Peru created just 15 years ago along the rocky coastline. Here, 42 families laid down roots after fleeing violent terrorism in the Andes. Sadly, they soon found that they were replacing one desperate situation with another: abject poverty and hopelessness. The desolate area where they put down roots lacked running water, electricity and sanitation services, and interaction between families was almost nonexistent.

In 2003, a group of Santa Barbara mothers, including two sisters, Norma and Alicia, noticed Food for the Hungry trucks passing by on their way to work in a neighboring town, where the community was thriving. Seeing the stark contrast, the sisters asked our organization to help them change things in their new town.

As Food for the Hungry staff listened to the community describe the challenges they faced, we worked together with them to develop goals for improvement, and helped implement the plan. Food for the Hungry staff helped with the initial construction of a community center and trained health promoters in the community. Today these health promoters are able to teach others to prevent disease and to provide better nutrition for their children.

In addition to addressing Santa Barbara’s infrastructure problems, Food for the Hungry helped residents repair important relationships by facilitating interaction among families, and addressing prevalent domestic abuse through a violence prevention program.

Alica from Santa Barbara, Peru

Alicia (pictured) and her sister Norma helped establish the community of Santa Barbara, Peru, and recruited FH to help end poverty.

“Before Food for the Hungry came, every family kept to themselves,” said Alicia. “We didn’t know each other or how to reach out to help each other when in need. Through FH trainings, we would get to know each other. Lots of families in the community also had problems with violence, arguments and youth delinquency. FH taught us how to resolve conflicts without violence, how to raise and instruct our children and how to better relate to our spouses.”

When Food for the Hungry enters a community, we do so with an exit plan, complete with measurable goals. It typically takes 10-15 years for a community to graduate from “stuck” to self-sustaining. In June 2015, after 13 years of involvement with Santa Barbara, Food for the Hungry officially celebrated the conclusion of its work with a Community Graduation ceremony. Together, Food for the Hungry staff and Santa Barbara residents celebrated the end of verbal and physical abuse among families, the spiritual development of children and adolescents, a complete turnaround in childhood education, and a transformation of the community’s infrastructure and health and hygiene.

It was an honor for Food for the Hungry to work alongside a community that has a vision for a better future. And while the future of Santa Barbara is bright, there are numerous other communities desperate for solutions. You can be a part of the work to end extreme poverty one community at a time through your prayers and financial donations.

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