The Many Faces of Poverty

Recently at our camp, an Armenian was explaining to the Americans the definition of poverty. Her point was this: When we think of poverty, many of us think of that picture of the little African boy with his stomach bulging out, big brown eyes with flies on them, sitting near a pile of trash. Yes, that is poverty. But that’s not the only poverty. Watch this (stolen from a couple other PCVs on Facebook – I’m lookin at you Joel):

Continuing her point: When donors come to Armenia, they see that people have stone houses. “You are not poor!” they proclaim. What they don’t realize is that the face of poverty here is much different. Poverty in Armenia is surviving the winter. Whether that means illegal deforestation, burning cow shit, or freezing your ass off as a family huddled around a wood stove in your kitchen, it is a real form of poverty. As the slideshow illustrated, poverty is also when you depend on the land for your food security and the gods of weather instead decide to torment you.

So yes, I am sitting here in my apartment, full, relatively clean, using wireless internet, and really not sacrificing much at all. But just because I am a member of the Posh Corps, it doesn’t mean the people in this country are afforded the same luxuries. Tourists and visitors to Yerevan fail to realize this fact as the dichotomy between capital and countryside is extremely severe.

On a disparate note, yesterday I went to the village Mrgashen to give a training session for our new volunteers. I presented on business culture to about 20 noobs there. This training involved me acting out a couple skits with other volunteers. Acting is not a part of my life (save for the production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 4th grade), but it went rather well I must say. More than anything it was a direct flashback to the PST times. I think I almost had contact diarrhea just from being around them.

Tomorrow I join up with Border2Border. Full report to follow early next week.


2 Responses to “The Many Faces of Poverty”

  1. Gail Says:

    This makes me sad to think of how hard it is for Armenians to get food and find jobs, yet they’re still so willing to share what they have with others. Good lesson to be learned here.

  2. icenugget Says:

    Yeah it’s true that often times the people with the least want to share the most. It never fails to amaze me. Today it was a free ride and then a coffee and tan (yogurt drink) on the family porch.

    Another take: One of my PCV friends, who is familiar with Asian culture, mentioned that the act of hospitality in Armenia, along with many Asian cultures, is really a measure of saving face. Honor and shame have much more weight and thus influence people’s behavior more.

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