Article #29 in the YCC Kids Club Ghana Student Life Stories Project
The Extreme Poverty I Have Witnessed
By Shulammite McCarthy
In Cross-Culture Class, we are studying the Millennium Development Goals for ending extreme poverty. But what does “Extreme Poverty” really look like?
I once was in a class with a twelve year old girl named Agbenorxevi who was intelligent as a squirrel. She was beautiful and so brilliant that everybody in the town liked her beauty and didn’t ever tire of looking at her.
But unfortunately for this beautiful princess, her parents were very poor. Nobody liked them in the community because in the night they went around asking people for food, which made people insult them. It was not because the parents could not work that people insulted them, but because of how dirty they were. People didn’t even want to see them on their side of the street.
Since Agbenorxevi came to the school, she had never written exams before because she couldn’t afford to pay her examination fees. Teachers hated her because she never got soap to bathe and wash her uniform. Out of ignorance, we laughed at her and called her names because she didn’t have notebooks to write in and her uniform looked like a dirty rag.
One day, I called Agbenorxevi over to ask her the reason why she was looking and acting this way in school. When she told me her horrible situation of living in extreme poverty, my face showed pure shock. Since she revealed her suffering, I decided to start buying her food, and sometimes even gave her books that had been bought by my family for me.
But what disturbed me so much was this: even my own parents did not like Agbenorxevi’s family. My mother and father said such bad things about them, and when I tried to convince my family that this girl needed help, they wouldn’t listen.
Then one day, Agbenorxevi came to school crying bitterly. When I asked her the reason, she said that the heavy rain that had fallen that month had beat her family down and made them sick, and she had lost her parents because of that.
Agbenorxevi became sick that same day. The next day I went to where her family had been sleeping and asked a woman if my classmate was all right.
“The girl has died,” the woman replied, “right there on the street.”
I wept bitterly, and vowed to never forget my poor friend.
In Ewe, the name “Agbenorxevi” means: “We have suffered, but we still have feathers to fly” or, “Even if we are poor, one day it shall be well with us.” But those living in Extreme Poverty cannot make it all well without some of us helping.
What I witnessed with Agbenorxevi broke my heart and made me begin to understand the meaning of “Extreme Poverty”. Extreme Poverty kills. So I urge every living soul, especially my colleagues, the youths: Let us wake up from our sleeping and come together to drive poverty out of the world forever!
Lillie’s Note: Please leave Shulammite a comment on her powerful article, stating your geographical location!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!