What does it mean to be poor?

  • Posted on: 26 October 2011
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
Blog Tags 2 Terms: 

wealthAccording to Webster’s on-line dictionary, the definition of poor is: 1. Destitute of property; wanting material riches or goods; needy; indigent.  Haiti has come to be known as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, which is technically true if you base the statement according to dollars and cents.  Many of the local Haitians I’ve come across say “yes we are poor” while smiling. My question is why the smile? Which leads me to ask what exactly does it mean to be poor?


Some people think poor is not having cable, or living in an unattractive low income neighborhood or having to take the bus to and from work. Others say, poor is lack or inadequate sources of education, clean water and health care. I’ve walked around Haiti with my “blanc” (foreign) friends and many say “why don’t the Haitians do things this way? It would be so much better”. Better for whom? Haitians are great at creating hings out of nothing or with little resources.  Of course I would like Haiti to be just as modern as its neighboring islands but at the same time there is an indescribable feeling that warms my heart about living with non-material items imply. Focusing on important things like family and laughter. How can we preserve this simplicity but still advance the country? I struggle with this every time I go to Haiti. I love Haiti not only because of its people but also because it is still the few places  I can go to in 3.5 hours and feel as if I traveled 20 hours to some far away land. Going back to Haiti takes me away from my unnecessary complicated day to day activities and humbles me to think about the more intangible things in life that makes me happy.  To close with a Haitian proverb...


“Grangou se mizè, vant plen se traka”

Hunger is misery, a full stomach is trouble.

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