The Nature of Poverty

I’ve seen the effects of poverty in many parts of the world. A year spent in Latin America couldn’t have prepared me for the crushing poverty that I saw in India. In Jaipur- the lonesome eight year old girl with a baby strapped to her back collecting garbage along the train tracks. In Mumbai- the endless lines of street dwellers sleeping alongside the highway and the horrified starved looks on their faces. The man that used one arm to pull the small remaining portion of his body across the harsh cobblestone paths of Varanasi- I could never erase that image from my memory.

Nor can I erase the feelings from my heart after what I saw in New Orleans post- hurricane Katrina. The community was abandoned and left in shambles and the residents, after years of neglect were nearly helpless. I’m often heartbroken by the exposed and vulnerable I see on the streets of New York City- old, young, pregnant, war veterans and others just lost. When I visited my home last week, it was hard to miss the bulging crowd outside of the Denver Rescue Mission- or maybe it just looks smaller when the crowd huddles together to escape the freezing winters.

Trying to compare the destitute in San Francisco or New York City to the desolate in Katmandu or Lima would do an incredible injustice to truth of these individual situations. The nature of poverty in the United States often manifests in ways that we don’t commonly label as “poverty”, especially once compared to the destitution we see in developing countries.  I can’t pinpoint it but, the look of boredom I saw yesterday on the face of a four year old girl in New York City, elicits a similar feeling from me as seeing the languish on the face of a child in India.

You cannot compare the empty stomach of a child in New Delhi to the bulging belly of a boy in Brooklyn; however the look of malaise on both of their faces can be a symptom of some form of poverty. Poverty can be due to the lack of dignity involved in the process of consumption. Over abundance and extreme lack have both been known to create hopelessness, violence, and severe health problems. The types of poverty that I distinguish have manifested themselves differently and each deserves a compassionate call to response.

How does this relate to Kiva…

The United States has been suffering from a community disconnection that has been growing for decades, and the affect has had implications across the globe. The movement to bring back our sense of community has taken many forms. Some buy locally grown foods or volunteer at local school programs. Now, you can choose to lend locally on Kiva and support small businesses that foster strong and dignified communities. I’m a firm believer in the interconnectedness of humanity, and that even the smallest of actions can have profound and long lasting impacts. By supporting a microenterprise on Kiva you are supporting the rights of an individual to a dignified way of earning a living and supporting their family- dignity is a strong word.


Erica Dorn has recently completed her Kiva Fellowship at ACCION USA in New York City.  She will be continuing a career in US Microfinance and can be reached at  You can also follow her blogs related to US Microfinance at


About the author

Erica Dorn