Church explains effects of poverty

CENTRAL GLENDALE — With economic turmoil causing jumps in poverty rates, visitors at First Lutheran Church spent part of their Saturday learning about how they could help fight the challenges facing those in need, both locally and worldwide.

It was the church's third annual event designed to create awareness for the problems facing homeless people and those in extreme poverty around the world, said Rachel Ronning-Lindgren, a congregant and one of the event organizers.

Visitors from around the Los Angeles area heard from experts about some of the most severe and avoidable effects of poverty and discussed ways to help others.

They also shared lunch with homeless guests, who had come to the church for its regular biweekly meal service.

“If we don't think about [people in poverty] we don't change,” said Jane Affonso, a member of the congregation. “We're not open to seeing how our lifestyles cause poverty.”

Consumers often buy goods from companies that sometimes underpay employees or pay low fees to factories overseas, resulting in extremely low wages for workers in poverty-stricken countries, Affonso said.

But that was just one of the many factors that contribute to class inequity, which can cause wide-ranging problems related to nutrition, sanitation and overall health, attendees said.

One workshop covered the impacts of poverty on families in the Los Angeles area, one of which is high rates of infant mortality.

In Los Angeles, 15 out of every 1,000 newborns die within a year of birth, a statistic often identified with poverty, said Lynn Dewgard, a Los Angeles pediatrician.

The figure is higher than the national average, which is less than eight out of every 1,000 newborns.

Another session addressed severe health problems caused by poverty in Malawi.

More than 60% of Malawi's population lives on less than 50 cents a day and cannot afford life-saving treatments that are offered there at much lower costs than in the United States, said Don Thomas, a trustee for the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, which focuses on fighting AIDS in Malawi.

AIDS medications that would cost thousands in the United States are offered for $1 a day to patients in Malawi, Thomas said, but even that proves to be unaffordable for many.

“When the average income is $170 a year, it might as well be as if you're paying $10,000 a month for medication,” Thomas said.

He showed photographs of young women he had met in Malawi, including one who had been receiving less food than other patients because she was dying and workers chose to allocate scarce resources to other patients, Thomas said.

The woman later died, he said.

The information on poverty struck a cord with visitors who had heard earlier in the day from the Bible about lessons related to class inequities, including one passage that read, “it is a question of fair balance between your present abundance and their need.”

Greg Rubio, who has been homeless for the last five years, came to the church for the lunch meal and was pleased that visitors had spent the day learning about problems related to poverty.

“I think it's a great idea,” he said. “I think it's better that everyone's aware of the problem today.”


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