The Desperation of Extreme Poverty

Desperation sometimes drives decent people to make drastic decisions, even illegal ones. Michael stole produce from a farm started by Bright Hope in order to feed his kids. This was a choice that would haunt him for years to come. 

Michael didn’t want to be a thief. But, fighting back tears, he explained: “I had to steal to survive!”

People living in extreme poverty are in constant crisis mode, always one step from despair. But what if we could help them escape this vicious cycle? 

The Impact of Drought in East Africa

Michael grew up in the drought-ridden region of Turkana, Kenya, among a historically pastoral, nomadic community. He spent his early life helping his father care for their animals. Michael couldn’t attend school since his family frequently moved in search of pasture and clean water for their animals.  

One year, an especially harsh drought caused a famine that wiped out nearly all their animals and killed all prospects of food and income. 

As Michael and his father walked across the cracked soil littered with animal carcasses, their hope vanished. They had no choice but to move again.

So, Michael, his parents, and their few animals settled in the village of Natoot. Soon after, Michael got married and had one daughter and two sons. Unfortunately, Natoot was a harsh place to live and eventually his wife left him.  

Stopping the Cycle of Desperation

Around that same time, Bright Hope partnered with a church in Natoot to plant a farm—an oasis in the desert. In time, the farm started producing kale, spinach, watermelon, cowpeas, and more. 

But Michael wasn’t chosen to work as a farmer. He felt abandoned, alone, and hopeless. 

Michael shared: “We used to go without food for days, surviving on wild fruits. At night I could hear children crying because of hunger. I tried to run away from reality by drinking illicit brew, but the situation worsened. I was rejected and isolated even by the community members.”  

Michael hit rock bottom and a thought crossed his mind—a thought totally foreign to his honest character. 

Steal food for my kids or we die. 

I don’t like stealing, but I need to eat. We couldn’t sleep on an empty stomach.” 

Eventually, the farm committee heard about Michael’s plight and agreed to help. They would sell produce to him at a discount so he could sell it for a profit. Now, Michael has his own business! 

Breaking Generational Poverty

As a father of three, Michael can’t imagine his kids in the position to make this heartbreaking choice—steal or die. Thankfully, he has begun a new journey selling produce and is determined to give his children a sustainable, honest future. 

Now, as a business owner, Michael reflected: “Today, I feel excited whenever I enter the farm gate. Now, every farmer wants to sell to me because they now know I am bringing money to the farm. Since the day I confessed to stealing, I feel happy. Even though I am still struggling, I am so grateful to God!” 

Michael’s story shows us that the generational cycle of poverty is hard to break! As our world continues to reel from a constant barrage of crises, it’s easy to throw up our hands in defeat.

Just as Jesus’ advent brought joy and peace to an anxious, despairing world, you have the choice to stop the cycle of desperation and suffering—of hungry kids who grow up to be hopeless parents who can’t feed their kids.

This holiday season, your generous gift can bring hope to a world in crisis by providing impoverished families with sustainable opportunities to step into a bright future.

Malia Rodriguez
Malia Rodriguez

Malia loves serving as a Copywriter for Bright Hope, where she has the privilege to share how God is working among the vulnerable and caring for the extreme poor around the world. As a homeschool mom, Malia strives to develop in her kids compassionate, generous, and caring hearts. Malia and her husband, Matt, live in the Washington, DC area with their son and daughter.