Monday, January 09, 2012

Rich and Poor

"Honduras, the second poorest country in Central America, suffers from extraordinarily unequal distribution of income, as well as high underemployment"
(from the CIA World Factbook;

I was looking up some information about Honduras this evening, trying to remember some of the startling poverty statistics I've heard and forgotten over my years here.  This site ,  or the CIA factbook,  might interest you. This list of countries by GNI was intriguing as well.

I learned that 60% of Hondurans live below the poverty line (and although I gave up the search before I could find out exactly what I was looking for, I've been told that most of that 60% is way, way below the line).  I learned that the GDP per capita in Honduras is $4,200 (compared to the $47,000 GDP of USA.)

What got me thinking about all of this was a conversation with a student's mom today.  This particular mom is quite fascinating.  In a country where 0.5% of the population have a Masters degree, she has two, and is in the middle of a PhD. at Harvard. We were mulling over the lives of the kids at our school; kids who come from that teensy-tiny percentage of elite citizens of Honduras; kids whose whole worlds include their home, their school, their church, their swimming lesson club, and maybe the mall.  These kids aren't allowed to walk around outside. They literally can't.go.outside. many times.  Our school playground is their outdoors.  Their trips to the U.S. or Europe are their chances to walk around on city streets because walking down a city sidewalk is something they have never done in their own country.  This particular mom was telling me that her son went to the Quincy market in Boston, and it was his first time in a market "because he would NEVER be allowed to go to a market here!"

All of this is just swimming around in my mind a lot lately.  How these kids who bring in things like iPods, iPhones, Toms shoes, and $300 headphones for show-and-tell are also kids who can't leave their houses and who don't know a single thing about the way life is in their country.  These kids, who are most likely the future of this country--the ones who will fill the professional and political jobs in 20 years--are the most sheltered from the way of life facing 90% of the population.  These kids who have so much more than most kids, and yet, in other ways, have less.

My heart just breaks for the kids in Honduras, both the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.  They are all missing out on so much.

(Now, I can't let you leave with a bad image of my students in your mind. Yeah, they are spoiled and, many, rich; but they are also the most precious, loving, and compassionate kids I know.  I adore them.  They still pray every day for the poor kids they served on a field trip in second grade. When they hear about problems like poverty or natural disasters or war, they brainstorm ways to help.  My prayer is that these kids really do fill up the important jobs in their country and, with the purity and innocence of third graders, find ways to change things.)

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