Most parents would say raising a child is hard work; helping raise a teenager - Lord, help me and my husband. But parenting in poverty, as a father in Haiti specifically, is a difficult job with circumstances that would bring most of us to the point of despair.
A family of four in the US making $26,500 or less is considered living in poverty (ASPE, 2021). We see fathers in the US struggling to provide the time, energy, or means to parent the way they'd like to. Some could argue our systems in the US aren't doing enough and I agree we as a nation have work to do, but we don't see children in the US dying of malnutrition, kidnappings of adults and children in broad daylight at alarming rates, or a lack of resources overall to help lessen the burden of fatherhood. We have citywide food banks and public school lunch programs, established law enforcement agencies and child welfare offices, and government systems in place, to name a few. We live in a country so fortunate with blessings we often fail to acknowledge or think about it frequently. In contrast, the amount of Haitians living in poverty is staggering. Regardless of raising the minimum wage this year (Workers World, 2022), the hourly rate equates to USD$0.60 per hour. Using a lower-middle-income country's poverty line the 2021 estimates report that 52% live on less than USD$3.20 per day and 24% live in extreme poverty at less than USD$1.25 per day (World Bank, 2020).
Poverty does not beget bad character; it is not a character flaw or personality defect. However, the effects of poverty on society are interconnected with a host of negative effects outside of economics. As one of the poorest countries in the world, the current surge in gang activity is one example illustrating this point (Borgen Project, 2022). Without the ability to successfully fill the role of provider and protector where does that leave fathers in combating the recruitment of their children?. Gangs are now using social media to recruit (Washington Post, 2022). Our children are impressionable. The offering of a "family unit" with protection and easy money can be enticing. The worry of negative effects and influence seems never-ending as a parent.
And poverty is not as simple as we think. The understood definition is to live lacking, to go without strictly in economic terms. Believers know there is another type of poverty - the poverty of the soul, drained of the spirit. Lifelong barriers and obstacles leading to soul poverty are passed from one generation to the next in a vicious cycle without leaders to help them out of the spiritual darkness. Our fathers and father figures on earth should but often don't reflect the glory of our Heavenly Father nor teach and instruct our children the way Jesus teaches us.
But there is hope. Extollo is helping create a pathway out of poverty for fathers and future fathers, helping develop men of character with training in work ethic, interpersonal skills, and leadership as well as teaching employable skills in specific construction trades for better employment opportunities. The generational impact our Extollo fathers are already making is powerful. I'm excited to be part of this work and humbled to have the ability to contribute to this growing group of fathers. This Father’s Day, while you celebrate the amazing fathers in your own lives, I invite you to help Extollo's mission to build the future of Haiti.
Happy Father's Day.
- Alicia Vega-Portela
Take a look at a recent interview with three Extollo dads as they share how Extollo is making an impact on their lives as well as the lives of their children...
ASPE/Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2021 Poverty Guidelines
The World Bank in Haiti, 2020
Workers World, Haitian Workers Demand: "Triple the minimum wage!", 2022
Poverty and gang violence in Haiti today, The Borgen Project, 2021
Haiti's gangs use Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter to recruit and terrorize, Washington Post, 2022
For a look at a different angle of poverty see: What is Poverty? Extollo blog, Keith Cobell, 2019