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Arrange a rice and beans week for your church during which participants eat only these two items.  You could also do this as an individual or a family.  Another alternative is to eat this kind of meal once every week.  At your meals, read stories about and pray for poor children around the world.  This will help you identify in a small way with them.

Design a tour of a low-income community near where you live.  You may already be aware of this community or you can identify it by talking with local social workers, health care professionals who do home visits, clergy, volunteers with aid organizations, and housing professionals.  Begin by learning all you can about the history of the neighborhood.  Pay particular attention to how this neighborhood differs from ones whose residents have higher incomes and more resources.  After the tour, lead a discussion with participants about how they can help those living in this neighborhood by serving with church and community groups that are working to improve their circumstances. For more information, see Beth Lindsay Templeton, Understanding Poverty in the Classroom: Changing Perceptions for Student Success, (pages 123ff). One caveat, though; know that there is a fine line between a tour as a learning experience and treating those you see as an exhibit. Be sensitive to that as you conduct your own visit to a poor neighborhood.

Do the exercise in Templeton’s Understanding Poverty in the Classroom, 37-38, to understand better the problems poor Americans face. 

Eat only what you can buy using the money you would have, depending on the size of your family, if you were on food stamps.  Doing this for a week will enable you to better understand the challenges food stamp recipients face.

Host IJM’s 24-Hour Justice Experience (24JE) to learn about contemporary slavery through reading information and doing hands-on activities.  This project is designed for youth groups and helps them to serve their community and fund rescues.  IJM provide youth leaders with a free downloadable 24JE Leader’s Guide and tools to place students onto the frontlines of the anti-slavery movement.

Schedule the World Vision Experience Truck to visit your area.  Then take its "20-minute journey to witness despair and hope in a brothel in Southeast Asia, see how God is working in the Syrian refugee crisis, and encounter extreme poverty in Africa."  

Take the Slavery Footprint survey to determine how many slaves work to produce the things you own and consume.  This website enables participants to visualize how their consumption habits and lifestyle are linked to contemporary slavery.  It also enables people to send messages to companies whose supply chains involve significant numbers of slaves. 

Visit The Justice Experience, a traveling exhibit that depicts the horrors of contemporary slavery. 

Visit Shopping for a Better World to increase your ability to make purchase in socially responsible ways

Use the How Rich am I? calculator to determine how rich you are and how your income compares to the global average. 


Annan, Kent. Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World.
Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It.
Corbett Steve, and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . or Yourself.
Davis, Katie. Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption.
Fleming, Melissa. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival.
Greene, Melissa Fay. There is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children.
Greer, Peter and Phil Smith. The Poor Will be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Life the World Out of Poverty.
Keller, Timothy. Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just.
Meyers, Bryant. Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development.
Sider, Ron. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.
Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel.
Tenbusch, Mike. The Jonathan Effect: Helping Kids and Schools Win the Battle Against Poverty.
Vance, J.D. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

Ministries and Organizations

100Kin10 aims to enrich American classrooms by training 100,000 excellent science, technology, engineering, and math teachers by 2021.

ACCION International is a global nonprofit that seeks to give people the financial tools they need to improve their lives.  It offers microloans and other financial services to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs who cannot obtain funding through traditional means.  It has helped create 64 financial institutions in 32 countries on four continents that assist millions of clients.  

Against Malaria Foundation helps protect families against malaria, which causes more than one million deaths per year and a strain on the economy of African countries. 

Amazima Ministries, which was founded by Katie Davis in 2007, Amazima serves families and children in Uganda with child sponsorship, food, vocational and health care programs, as well as a primary school.

America SCORES works with thousands of urban young people in 13 cities, inspiring them to lead health lives, be engaged students, and make a difference in the world.  This unique program combines soccer, poetry, and community service.

America's Promise Alliance. Founded in 1997, the work of the Alliance revolves around five promises (Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education, Opportunities to Help Others) to children that form the conditions they need to achieve adult success.

Banking on Our Future helps increase the dignity, hope, and economic self-sufficiency of people in low-income communities by furnishing free financial literacy classes in schools and community buildings.

Best Buddies is an international nonprofit that recruits volunteers to create one-on-one friendships and helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities get rewarding jobs, live on their own, and become inspirational leaders.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation builds partnerships with the best organizations around the world to bring together expertise, resources, and vision to identify issues, find answers, and effect change in poverty, health, and education to dramatically improve life for millions of people.  Its Global Development Division works to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. The Global Health Division harnesses advances in science and technology to save lives and improve medical care in developing countries.  The United States Division works to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education and support vulnerable children and families in Washington State.

BRAC. An NGO founded in Bangladesh that strives to address the root causes of poverty through education, and economic and social programs.

CARE works in 87 countries worldwide to support over 900 poverty-fighting development and emergency projects and protect people from violence, discrimination, human rights violations and poverty. They also offer economic development programs to communities to foster entrepreneurial success and work with local, national and international governments to enact policies that address the underlying causes of poverty.

Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church in the United States.  It assists the poor and vulnerable overseas by promoting human development through responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, nurturing peaceful and just societies.  Its staff work to provide quality education for all, particularly girls and women. CRS establishes community-based health care systems that to help residents manage their own health needs, including caring for those affected by HIV/AIDS, improving child survival especially among orphans and vulnerable children, developing proper water and sanitation systems, improving nutrition, and advancing maternal and child health.

The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships leads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to build and support partnerships with faith-based and community organizations in order to better serve needy individuals, families, and communities.

Compassion International. is one of the two largest faith-based child sponsorship programs in the world, Compassion focuses its work on freeing children from spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty to enable them to become responsible Christian adults.

eduKenya. Founded in 2010, eduKenya operates schools in the Mathare slum of Nairobi along with related development programs designed to make the ministry self-sufficient.

EduNations builds and funds schools for children in Sierra Leone.

Hope International. This global nonprofit focuses on Christ-centered job creation, savings mobilization, and microenterpirse development. 

Pratham. Hoping to address Mumbai's "vicious cycle of poverty" through education, Pratham founders opened a preschool there in 1994. Since that time it has expanded its programs throughout India and beyond to help educate thousands of poor children.

Preemptive Love Coalition is on the ground in Iraq and Syria working with locals to provide desperately needed aid.

Mercy House. Provides pre and post natal care, education, vocational training and other services to pregnant teen girls in the slums of Nairobi, providing them the support they need to bear and raise their children.

The Woodson Center, based in Washington, DC, is a nonprofit that helps community organizations in low-income neighborhoods devise solutions to their economic problems.  It strives to transform lives, schools, and troubled neighborhoods.  Since its founding in 1981, it has provided training and technical assistance to more than 2,600 leaders of community and faith-based organizations in 39 states.

World Renew. An outreach of the Christian Reformed Church, World Renew is inspired by God's "passion for justice and mercy . . . to renew hope, reconcile lives, and restore creation.

World Vision. One of the two largest Christian child sponsorship ministries in the world, World Vision works in nearly 100 countries to raise children out of poverty.


Call + Response.  This documentary portrays the many forms of contemporary human slavery.  Interspersing images with musical performances the film allows the oppressed to voice their cries for freedom.  Traveling to urban and rural locales, the film reveals the world’s “27 million dirtiest secrets,” the 27 million people who are held in bondage in brothels, factories, fields, and homes. 

Child Poverty in the US.  A 2011 60 Minutes report of the physical and psychological problems poor child face, including being homeless, sleeping in their family car, going to be hungry, living in unsafe neighborhoods, losing their possessions, and feeling embarrassed and inferior. 

A Conversation about Growing Up Black.  In this short video from The New York Times African-American boys and young men speak candidly about the daily challenges they face because strangers cross the street to avoid them, the police arbitrarily stop them, and people fear them because of the color of their skin. They openly discuss the challenges confronting young black men in a racially-charged world and how they limit their opportunities.

The End of Poverty?  Narrated by actor and activist, Martin Sheen, this feature-length documentary argues that military conquest, slavery, and colonization produced poverty by seizing nations’ land and minerals and forcing their citizens to labor at low wages for the colonizers.  Today’s global poverty is caused by unfair debt, trade and tax policies and by wealthy countries exploiting developing ones.  Filmed in the slums of Africa and the barrios of Latin America, the film features commentary by Nobel Prize winners in Economics, acclaimed authors Susan George and John Perkins, university professor William Easterly, government ministers, and the leaders of social movements in Brazil, Venezuela, Kenya and Tanzania. 

Faces of Poverty: Life at the Breaking Point.  This documentary follow three residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, labeled the poorest city in the United States, where 41% of residents live below the poverty line and good-paying jobs are scarce as manufacturing plants continue to lay off workers or close. 

58: The Film.  This documentary is based on God’s call in Isaiah 58 to “loose the chains of injustice” and provide for the poor.  It profiles a young British woman who resists the pressures of consumer society, Ethiopian Christians who work to restore their environment, a Brazilian who spreads the Gospel and helps those struggling with addiction, an American business owner who promotes Fair Trade coffee, a pastor in India who works to liberate people enslaved by bonded labor, and the generosity of New York youth who give up their own food to help the impoverished.  These stories challenge church members to use their wealth and talents to help end extreme poverty.

Know How.  Written and acted by young women and men who grew up in New York City’s foster care system, this video tells tales about how five teenagers strive to obtain stability in a turbulent urban environment.  While quite pessimistic and offering few solutions, the 2015 film poignantly portrays the problems youth in foster care encounter—being bullied, losing loving relatives, not committing crimes, sleeping on subways, and feeling hopeless.

Living on One Dollar.  This 2013 documentary recounts the effort of four American friends to live on $1 a day for two months in rural Guatemala, which is income 70% of the Guatemalans living in this area.  Their attempt leads them to cope with hunger, weight loss, parasites, and acute financial stress.  More than 1.1 billion people around the world face these challenges daily.  Although the friends recognize that these problems have no easy solutions, the generosity and strength of a 20-year-old woman and of a 12-year-old boy give them hope that concerned people can make a difference. 

The Lottery.  This 2010 documentary features four families from Harlem and the Bronx who enter their children in a charter school lottery.  Only a small percentage of the thousands who apply will receive the opportunity to have a better future.  The Lottery explores the heated debate about how to reform American education.  Featuring interviews with educators and politicians and educators, the film analyzes the public education crisis and how to fix it.

180 Days: A Year inside an American High School provides a revealing portrait of Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan High School, an alternative school with a devoted staff.  It examines the challenges this school faces by focusing on its young, dynamic principal and five remarkable students. 

Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream.  This PBS documentary contrasts 740 Park Ave, New York City, the home of some of the wealthiest Americans, with Park Avenue in South Bronx, just 10 minutes to the north, where more than half the residents use food stamps and children are 20 times more likely to be murdered.  The film explains how inequality has skyrocketed in the United States in the last 30 years.

A Place at the Table. This 2012 documentary depicts the negative consequences of rampant food insecurity in the United States, where millions of low paid workers, and one in four children depend on food banks to meet their needs.  It tells the powerful stories of three Americans who strive to maintain their dignity while they struggle to eat.  

The Poor Will Not Always Be With Us.  Scott Todd’s provocative 8-minute video examines the teachings of scripture and urges Christians to use the resources God has provided to eliminate dire economic poverty.  

Poverty, Inc.  Filmed in 20 countries and featuring more than 200 interviews, this 2015 documentary argues that multi-billion dollar poverty industry has produced mixed, in some cases even catastrophic, results.  Exploring topics ranging from international adoptions to agricultural subsidies to US corporate policies, the film argues that many leaders in the developing world are calling for better ways to help their nations.  

Relationship DUI—Love Takes Learning. This 4-minute video produced by PREP discusses the dangers of making important decisions with a partner while under the influence of romantic love without considering the consequences.  

Rich Hill.  This Sundance Film Festival warding-winning documentary tells the story of three teenage boys growing up in rural Missouri who struggle with isolation, their parents’ unemployment, family instability broken families, and lack of opportunity.  It provides a grim but realistic picture of what it is like to grow up poor in America and confront heartbreaking choices.  

Through a Child's Eyes: Views of Global Poverty.  This documentary examines the plight of underprivileged nine-year-olds in Egypt, Rwanda, India, Cambodia, Romania, Brazil, and the United States.  The film depicts their challenges and hardships by following the life of a child in each country through engaging interviews, tours of substandard schools, and visits to ramshackle homes. 

Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?  This documentary produced by Larry Alelman shows how an individual’s street address affects her health and examines the detrimental effects of racism and various social policies.

Waging a Living.  This documentary, filmed over a three-year period in the Northeast and California, explores what it is like for the one in four American workers—more than 30 million people—who have jobs that pay less than the federal poverty level.  It helps viewers understand what is it like to work full-time and remain poor.  The documentary profiles four very different working Americans who struggle to make ends meet. 

Waiting for Superman.  Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows the lives of ten talented children who attend schools in Harlem and the Bronx that inhibit, rather than encourage, their academic growth.  He portrays “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” analyzing the seemingly intractable problems of the American public education system.  Guggenheim also depicts innovative approaches education reformers and charter schools are employing to improve education for American children.

Wealth Inequality in America.  More than 16 million people have watched this video, which is based on the work of Harvard Business Professor Mike Norton.  It compares Americans’ perceptions and ideal of the nation’s distribution of wealth with the actual amount of wealth its citizens own.  Among other observations, it points out that since 1976, the share of national income held by the top 1 percent of Americans has increased from 9 percent to 24 percent.  Moreover, this small group own nearly half the country’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, while a mere 0.5 percent of these investments belongs to the bottom 50 percent of earners.  

Welcome to the World.  This PBS documentary examines how much a child’s fate is determined by the circumstances and location of his or her birth.  Much of what happens within 24 hours of a child’s birth dictates that his or her chances of survival and likelihood of good health and ability to thrive in the long run.  The film depicts births in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and the United States, and compares rates of maternal mortality, communicable disease, women’s freedom to control their own reproductive choices, and the availability of healthcare in each country.  

Simulation Games

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) was developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action.  This games helps educate policy makers and local community leaders about the daily realities of life for those who have little money and great stress.  Participants work to house, feed, and keep their “families” safe for a month.  They have to negotiate with pawn brokers, employers, police, landlords, school administrators, teachers, bank officials, and welfare staff.  Unfortunately, the kit’s cost of $1925.00 plus $70.00 shipping and handling makes its use possible only for well-funded organizations.

Just Neighbors: An Interactive Poverty Awareness Program includes role playing, stories, and videos.  It enables participants to walk in the shoes of the poor, experience their frustration, and learn how to help.  It comes in three versions: an interfaith one for congregations and faith-based non-profits, a community service edition for schools and nonprofits, and a Catholic school teaching edition.

The Marketplace is a simulation in which players try to live on $438 a week, which was the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2011.

Spent is an online game that simulates being poor sponsored by Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina, whose mission “is to provide food, clothing, shelter and supportive services to neighbors in need.” Players try to live for one month on $1,000.  They have to choose between equally disagreeable options the poor face such as do you make a healthy meal or keep the lights on?  Do you make the minimum payment on your credit cards or pay your rent?  The game ends when either you run out of money before the month ends or get through the month with money left over.  

Survive125 challenges players to survive one month on $1.25 a day, as 1.3 billion people currently do.  For example, you may be a 26-year-old female bricklayer living in India with four children.  You must make tough decisions.  Will you pay for drugs to protect your child from getting measles or will you save the money to buy food?  The game ends when you run out of money.