Poverty dwells among us

207 | June 2022

New day, new challenges!  The Covid 19 pandemic and the current Ukrainian conflict have disrupted all supply lines.  The effect: a change in cost of living, products and services.  Currently the price increase in basic alimentation is felt across the board and it is a subject of concern.  For those who can afford it, high cost of basic products and services are no big deal.  One can always refrain from one or two luxury items.  Yet, for those on the lower end of social scale this would mean depriving oneself of essential items to make ends meet.  Under worse circumstances this could also lead one to descend further down the social ladder!

Poverty still dwells among us, and under the present circumstances, could even increase.  Studies conducted by entities like Caritas Malta put us on the alert.  However, those working in the trenches come to their conclusions about poverty, even without such studies.  Senior citizens, vulnerable persons and families with social and/or emotional needs are finding it ever more difficult to makes ends meet and live a life with dignity.

Poverty comes around in many forms.  It takes an open mind and an empathic heart to decipher and understand situations.  There are families living in very small housing units or garages just because they can no longer afford rising rental costs.  There are persons who, because of separation and child maintenance commitments cannot afford to rent, and thus end up being homeless.  Some senior citizens cannot afford the use of utilities because of a meagre income.  Some households, though living behind very ‘normal’ facades are experiencing difficult times.  After all, no one likes to be spotted out for being less than his or her neighbour.

Then one meets other forms of ‘modern’ poverty.  These forms have long-lasting impact because they deprive the person of a dignified living standard.  Nowadays, illiteracy often goes undetected.  Those affected are often too shy to admit or talk about it.  Others cannot cook even bare basics.  These are often forced to rely on inexpensive take-away food that is neither nutritious nor even healthy!  There is the poverty of those who cannot manage electronic services and thus end up quietly isolated from the rest of society; not to mention those who cannot afford a good Internet connection to their home and end up severed from the social and educational services offered.  The Covid 19 pandemic over these last two years revealed many gaps in our social fabric.

It is easy for each one of us to project personal experiences on others!  Therefore we become too indifferent and lose sight of the other’s plight.  We come to believe that everyone should look after himself or herself.  We believe that all homeless are ‘foreign’ persons.  They end up homeless because they do not want to work.  We believe that those currently employed are all earning a living wage!  What illusions!

We are not attempting to paint a bleak picture.  Government, Church, Parishes are all making huge efforts towards social development.  In spite of huge financial and human resource shortcomings, Maltese parishes are doing what is within their means to decrease the impact of human suffering.  Besides assistance provided within their boundaries, parishes are providing 120 daily meals to families who cannot cook their own meals.  This is added to about 1,300 hampers of essential foodstuff provided to families in the North of the Island and around the harbour areas on a regular basis.  All work is made possible by a network of volunteers while the parishes silently pick up the costs.

Coordinated efforts are needed to bring together Civil and Church authorities, Caritas Malta, NGOs, Catholic Action, parishes and others to boost the network and reach all those in need.  The work undertaken by different volunteers across the board is priceless.  More hands are needed on deck and if you can give a helping hand, please come forward.

Poverty still lives among us and could possibly be on the increase!  We need to become more sensitive so we can see it.  This is the first step.  Then we need to move to action: everyone according to one’s possibilities, to ameliorate the situation.  We are all tempted to play a blame game or weaponize poverty for one crusade or another.  When that happens efforts to better the situation tend to be silenced.  And in this case silence is a dreadful thing!

Wherever there are persons who cannot enjoy their human dignity, we are being called to action.  Public discussion on the subject can lead to conscientization and a better future.

This is both a wake up call and a call to action.  The dignity of every person is important!

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