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Shulammite’s Article: Extreme Poverty and My Classmate in Ghana

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.

Shulammite, the author of this article.
Shulammite, the author of this article.

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.

Shulammite with friends in Ghana.
Shulammite with friends in Ghana.

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!


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Team 3B, Londrina, Brazil

Thursday 14th of April 2011

Hello, Shulammite. We are English teachers from Brazil. Our students read your article and wanted to say a few words to you...

"Hi Shulammite, we are students and we read your post. We would like to show you our feelings for the lost of your friend. We hope that the situation change and you continue encouraging people to wake up from their sleep."

"We are sorry for your lost. We are very sad for the situation that you have witnessed and we wish that everything get better in your contry. We hope you have power to continue your long walk and never give up to help the people in need. We are thankful because of what you have been through and shared with us we learnt to help people."

"Unfortunately in the world we live life has been banalized because of the dishumanization. Hugs."

"Shulammite, your experience was amazing. You were able to look to yourself and change your way of acting and thinking, showing the world that we are able to transform and help the others. God bless you. Kisses. xoxo."

"We want to congratulat you for your initiative and for your comotion in relation to your classmate. Also for your worthy and human attitude because unfortunately, people do not have this feeling of solidarity anymore by loving their closed one."

We all thank you for your words...God bless you.


Teachers and High school students from Colégio Estadual Vicente Rijo, Londrina, Brazil.

Amber Garcia

Tuesday 14th of December 2010

The actions that this young man took are inspirational. I am glad that he helped out a classmate in need, most people would not even bother to do this because they didn't want to get bullied by their other classmates. This article makes me want to become a better person because I know that I am not always the best person I can be.

Keiana Cox

Tuesday 14th of December 2010

I'm so sorry for your loss Shulammite : ( It just goes to show that you really can't judge a book by it's cover, and you shouldn't be mean to people because you never know what's going on in thier life. But I thought it was very mature of you to finally try to figure out what was wrong with her and trying to get to know her better. I also thought it was kind of you to give her some of your belongings, such as your books. At least she had one good friend before she passed away ; ) and it was you!

Josalyn Santangelo

Wednesday 17th of November 2010

Oh Shulammite, I am so sorry for your loss. It really hurts when you lose a friend. I bet she was so beautiful and kind, too. Shame on those kids who laughed at her and called her names. Poor girl. Again, I'm so sorry. I am so inspired. Thank you.


Friday 12th of November 2010

Wow. I can't believe even her parents hated Agbenorxevi and her family! They should have offered to help. Just because Agbenorxevi's family is poor doesn't mean they have to be despised by everyone. Shulammite's parents should think about how they would feel if they were poor and hated by everyone.

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