This month, Creators of Hope will take a look at the environment and how it shapes life for Jamaica’s rural poor. We’ll also consider the other way around: the effects that poverty can have on the environment.
As an island nation, Jamaica is especially vulnerable to environmental and weather-related events. In this way, it’s similar to those parts of the coastal U.S. where low-income neighborhoods can be at the mercy of the elements.
When we think about the impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans, especially in the poorest parishes that experienced the worst flooding from Lake Pontchartrain’s failed levees, we can see how poverty increases the chances that extreme weather events can destroy a community. Storms of Katrina’s size and strength can wipe out entire districts of houses and businesses.
When communities don’t have the resources to rebuild, the damage becomes permanent, and those districts are abandoned.
Jamaica’s position in the Caribbean makes it vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. Rising sea levels hit small island nations hard and fast. The kinds of extreme weather events we’ve seen happening more often, from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to the East Coast’s “Snowmageddon” of 2016 and beyond, have the greatest impact on island communities with not much infrastructure and few resources.
In addition, Jamaica’s poor live mainly in rural areas. What income they make, from the crops they can grow, depends on the right weather and climate conditions. When the weather becomes dangerous and unpredictable, crops fail and whole communities suffer.
One of the biggest problems facing communities of rural poor is the lack of resources. Recovering from environmental events is difficult to impossible when people are barely making it from one day to the next. Jamaica’s ingrained cycle of poverty, generation after generation caught in the same trap, adds to the problem.
We can also see how the homeless are hit hardest by environmental problems. Without a home, people have no place to take shelter, no way to control their surroundings, no way to keep themselves and their families safe when the natural world turns dangerous.
At Creators of Hope, we want to help Jamaica’s most vulnerable break the cycle of poverty, and build the resources to protect themselves and control their surroundings in the face of changes in the natural world. We build homes to give people the opportunity of reliable shelter, a foundation that they can build on.
Learn more about us and consider donating to support our work building homes for Jamaica’s rural poor!
Last time on the blog, we started looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We considered how homelessness affects Jamaica’s children, when they’re born into environments in which poverty and struggle replace security and stability.
When we look at the diagram, we can see how basic needs of physical safety form the foundation for any person’s self-actualization. As people, our ideal is to live fully, using our gifts and abilities to build lives we love.
But for kids who are born into environments where basic needs aren’t met, exploration and growth are very difficult. It’s hard to build a better life out of a constant struggle with uncertainty. This is how cycles of poverty and homelessness often get perpetuated from one generation to the next.
Now let’s consider what happens when kids do get to experience a home environment where core needs are satisfied. This takes us up from the bottom tiers of Maslow’s pyramid to the top three.
Kids in stable homes have a chance to feel the comfort of having people they love around them. Think back to when you were little, and how exciting it was when family and friends came over to celebrate a holiday or a birthday. At Christmas at my grandparents’ house, when the family all sat around the dining room table to share roast turkey and stuffing, I remember how safe and happy I felt. The world was a hundred percent secure. That kind of experience has a lasting impact on a young child.
Another aspect of home for kids is the chance to take pride in a place that belongs to them. Sure, when we were growing up, our parents had a big say in what our rooms looked like. But we had our decorations, our posters, maybe the rug and curtains we picked out, maybe a plant on the windowsill. Remember how it felt to have your room, where you could go to read a favorite book or snuggle with a stuffed animal? If you were like me, your room was your anchor, a safe and welcoming spot whatever happened in the outside world.
All of these pieces – physical safety, the satisfaction of togetherness, and pride and a sense of ownership in a home – all of them together get us up to the top tier in the pyramid. This is where, in an environment that feels secure, and with a solid foundation under them, kids can grow fully as people. They can develop their interests and use their imaginations. When they have a chance to become the people they want to be, they can shape the world around them.
We at Creators of Hope believe every child should have a home in which they can grow up safe and secure. Help us fulfill that dream by learning more about our mission, and consider volunteering with us on our next mission trip.