What Is the Cycle of Poverty

What Is the Cycle of Poverty?

People who are born into poverty tend to stay that way—year after year and generation after generation.[1] If a person is poor, the person’s parents were likely poor too and their parents before them. What is the cycle of poverty? It’s a hopeless, generational pattern that is likely to continue unless an outside force intervenes.

What is the poverty cycle? Central to this cycle is the absence of material possessions.[2] Families often grapple with insufficient funds to cover bills or provide nourishment for their children. Access to clean water and shelter might remain elusive, while the prospect of affording nutritious food can seem unattainable.

Another aspect of the cycle of poverty is the perpetuated mindset of hopelessness. Generational poverty often continues because a child expects to follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. It’s difficult to imagine a better future when circumstances have been dismal for generations. It’s similar to a child wearing blinders; those blinders often require an outside force to help remove them. That’s what GFA World works very hard to do. In some of the world’s poorest countries, we are there to help break into the cycle and disrupt it by offering practical steps to a better future. We help remove the blinders by providing opportunities that a daughter or son who is trapped in poverty doesn’t have access to, like an education.

Every day, rain or shine, hot or cold, Kylan and his wife, Esmae, would gather their water vessels and head out to find clean water. It was a long walk to the watering hole, and sometimes the rain would make the path dangerous and slippery. World Vision reports that, globally, women and girls spend 200 million hours a day walking to collect water.[3] It’s a weary chore, and sometimes they must complete it multiple times per day. They may work hard all day as a day laborer, but then once they get home, they still have to travel to collect that essential water.

The water that Kylan and Esmae collected wasn’t always safe. Sometimes it contained waterborne disease-causing pathogens, and when they became infected, they couldn’t afford treatment for the disease, so sickness would keep them from work. This wasn’t a one-generation cycle. For many in their community, it had been going on for multiple generations.

Kylan and Esmae’s neighborhood was dramatically changed when their GFA World pastor announced he had requested a Jesus Well for their village. Once it was installed, the villagers had clean water available to them in a convenient location. There was no more need to walk long distances for dirty water. The water from the Jesus Well was fresh and didn’t breed disease. Now, they could travel at any time of the day to fetch clean and convenient water from their new well.

“The water from the Jesus Well [is] very tasty, and very clean and good to drink,” Kylan said. He is very grateful that he and his family don’t get sick as often and don’t have to spend money on treatments due to waterborne illnesses. “We were very glad that our troubles and our problems from the [lack of] pure and clean water were solved by the church,” Kylan said. “We can’t thank enough God for the blessings that He has given to our village, and we are so happy to have a Jesus Well in our village.”[4]

Now, they no longer have to get up early to fetch water or walk in the excessively hot afternoons. The water is clean and easily accessible. The cycle of poverty was exacerbated by the lack of available clean water―the time it took to fetch water from far-off sources and the illnesses caused by its impurities―but now that symptom of poverty has vanished!

At GFA World, we provide many ways to break the cycle of poverty, including Jesus Wells. Sometimes the cycle-breaker is the gift of a pair of goats to a poor family who needs an extra income source. Sometimes it’s a tailoring class and a sewing machine for a woman who needs a helping hand up. It may be a literacy class for a man or woman, which then equips them for a better-paying job. Other times, it’s a program to keep kids in school so they are qualified for higher-paying positions. In our programs, children receive things like nutritious meals, tutoring, school supplies, clean water, hygiene supplies and more. What is the cycle of poverty? For these kids, we want it to be a thing of the past.

GFA world understands the answer to how can education break the cycle of poverty? It’s essential to prioritize education since literacy has been listed as a great miracle cure for poverty.[5] For every year a child stays in school, her chances of sinking deeper into poverty decrease by 9 percent.[6] Literacy is a key element in how to break the cycle of poverty.

You can help alleviate poverty and give hope where there is currently none. By donating life-changing gifts like goats or water wells, you can help be a cycle-breaker! You can free someone from a life of despair and help them understand the love that God has for them.

Learn more about the effects of poverty

[1] “Childhood and Intergenerational Poverty: The Long-Term Consequences of Growing up Poor.” National Center for Children in Poverty. Accessed August 2023. http://www.nccp.org/publication/childhood-and-intergenerational-poverty/.
[2] “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022.” World Bank. 2022. https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/poverty-and-shared-prosperity.
[3] Reid, Kathryn. “Walk for Water: Your 6K vs Theirs.” World Vision. March 19, 2020. https://www.worldvision.org/clean-water-news-stories/walk-water-6k.
[4] “Gift Ends Villages Torrent of Hopelessness.” GFA World. Accessed July 12, 2023. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/gift-ends-villages-torrent-of-hopelessness-wfr23-03.
[5] Mains, Karen Burton. “Literacy: One of the Great Miracle Cures.” September 2019. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/literacy-miracle-cure-illiteracy.
[6] “The Investment Case for Education and Equity,” 21. UNICEF. January, 2015. https://www.unicef.org/media/50936/file/Investment_Case_for_Education_and_Equity-ENG.pdf.