Sunday, November 1, 2009

Colombian Connections: Poverty

This month we would like to present some basic statistics that may help frame the depth of Poverty in Colombia and highlight some of the contributing factors. There are many complicated layers to this issue. Displacement, an issue that we mentioned in the last newsletter, is certainly a major contributor to this problem. However, the following statistics on Poverty illuminate other areas that aren’t often in the spotlight.

Distribution of Wealth
• The government estimates about 45% are living in poverty (earning around $2.00/day). Other sources estimate closer to 65%.
• In Cartagena, the main tourist destination for Colombia, 75% of the people are living in poverty.
• Top 10% of the population own 53% of the wealth/resources. The bottom 10% own 0.6%
Agrarian Distribution
• 3,000 landowners own 56% of all arable land. 8,000,000 Campesinos don’t have access to any land.
• There is an 85% poverty level in the countryside of Colombia.
Educational Poverty
• For every 100 students who enter 1st grade only 65 finish primary school
• Of those 65 only 45 go to High School
• Of those 45 only 25 go to University (if you don’t go to University, military service is mandatory)
• Of those 25 only 7 will graduate with a degree
• Of those 7 only 4 will find work in their area of study
• 20 million trained/employable people and only 6.5 million have steady work with Social Security.

(Statistics provided by Cepalc, which is the Popular Center for Education in Latin America and Carribean, here in Bogota)

These numbers represent a serious and complicated social-political problem in Colombia. The educational statistics alone demonstrate extreme inequality and contribute greatly to the cycle of poverty. Although the problem is overwhelming and difficult to grasp, we have been equally impressed by the capability and capacity of the people here and how they work within the situation. The individuals and organizations that exist to work for a better Colombia are inspiring. We have discovered, as North Americans, we can strategically use our voice to confront these issues.

This month we have gratitude for:
Skype, email, Facebook, and Blogs; A flexible and accommodating school for our children; Opportunities for professional and personal development; Spiritually grounded and dedicated coworkers.

This month we ask for prayers/intentions/comfort for:
The most recent victims and perpetrators of violence in the region of Cordoba; Our continuing struggles with language and cultural barriers; The School for Peace and other projects and programs of Mencoldes and Justapaz that are now entering planning stages for the coming year; Our own children as they work at maintaining old friendships and search for new.

Something else you can do…
Respond to the recent MCC Action Alert regarding Colombia;
Get involved with local poverty initiatives at Peace Connections;
Donate your time, money, goods, or services to someone in need.

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