Interning in Uganda: Expectancies and Poverty

Sometimes it feels like nothing in Africa is convenient. Meetings start hours late, restaurant orders take longer, and power outages occur randomly and regularly.

I spent a majority of today attempting to begin creating a website on a computer that has yet to successfully connect to the internet — which is already naturally slow like the continent itself. I worked alongside a Source Cafe staffer as we gathered content and brainstormed webpages for the antisipated Source website, which is even more anticipated since we have had so little progress thus far.

I became impatient after the first 30 minutes of the loading symbol on Internet Explorer. We tried connecting in different areas of the cafe to gain a better connection, but our efforts were in vain. I was frustrated that my expectations for the site were not completed, hardly started, and I almost feel like the lack of progress is more failure than an unfortunate, uncontrollable event.

Humans have unconscious, daily expectations. We expect the sun to rise everyday, water to come from our faucets and wireless internet to use from our computers. We may not realize they are expectations, however, until they are not met.

Scott C. Todd, senior vice president for global advocacy at Compassion International, explores the relationship between expectations and poverty in his book, “Hope Rising.” He writes that when expectations are unmet, we grow frustrated and want an explanation. He argues that this is a core purpose for the treatable, yet sometimes deadly, lifestyle of extreme poverty.

“We don’t expect ourselves to end extreme poverty. We don’t expect our governments to end it. We don’t expect God to end it. Instead, we expect it to exist as it always has. It may even get worse … Many Christians have been trapped by low expectations for the future” (Todd, 13, years 27).

Todd believes ending extreme poverty is possible if we perceive it as accomplishable and even expect to contribute to alleviating it. There are approximately 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty today, 21 percent of the developing world. In 1981, 52 percent of the developing world’s population lived in extreme poverty (World Bank).

“Over the past three decades, the extent of global poverty has declined rapidly. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty in 2013 is less than half of what is was in 1990. Based in this trend, it is possible to envision a world in which extreme poverty has been effectively eliminated within a generation” (Todd, 26).

I don’t know if I agree that relief from extreme poverty will be sustained after one generation, but I can relate to his idea of expectation-driven problem solving. If we are frustrated by unmet expectations, we are more likely to care about finding a solution. If we do not expect poverty to end in the first place, how do we become aware and motivated when Jesus’ sheep are not fed?

During my internship with Kibo Group International, I have learned that the Kibo staff members are working themselves out of a job — expectantly. Their goal is to teach sustainable development skills to help alleviate root-causes of poverty, so that more and more families will no longer need their services. Isn’t that what so many NGOs and non-profits should be doing, anyway? The purpose of their services is to no longer have a need for them.

Maybe our blood should boil just as much about International extreme poverty as it does about slow internet.

“Maybe, just maybe, the world can get better. And maybe we will do our part to make it happen. Isn’t that what Jesus prayed for? ‘Thy will be done in earth'” (Todd, 27).


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