When we usually think of poverty, we think of the pre-welfare state starvation that could happen to any family who were suddenly jobless or parent less. People died of ‘filth diseases’ and starved; internal parasites were a common cause of death. Anyone who reads this and works in education in the UK, will know of families who live in real deprivation and their children suffer. Usually, they don’t do well in school and it is the minority who rise up out of their circumstances and make something of themselves: I know, I was one of them. Even though we do everything we can to raise aspiration and close the gaps between rich and poor; it’s difficult to support your children with their maths homework when you watch the last 20p count down to zero on the electricity key meter.
One of my greatest ambitions once I am debt free is to do more for others. I have to admit I was physically in pain, when I watched the Channel 4 programme
“How the other half live”. The premise of the programme works to find a family who will benefit from sponsorship by a family who can afford to do so. Up and down this country tonight, in over crowded, sub standard housing; families will be doing what they can to get by. There are incredible families, often ‘working two jobs’ where mum will come in from work and dad will go out and somehow they manage to just pay the rent and keep the bills paid. There are however, families
so deeply in debt, trapped on benefits, without any qualifications who can see no way out of their circumstances.
The Channel 4 programme I watched, showed one such family. Mum and dad were of very limited ability, both had health issues, their children had learning difficulties and seven of them lived in a two bedroom house in the middle of a crime ridden council estate. They were given much needed relief by a supporting family who gave them some money. The children were bought beds, bedding, shoes and clothes and you would have thought it was Christmas day. That moment humbled me and made me realise how incredibly fortunate, well off and comfortable I really am.
It also made me incredibly grateful for the intelligence and resourcefulness of my parents. My mother would buy jumble sale jumpers, unpick them and knit me something fashionable from a pattern in a magazine. She would also buy jumble sale clothes and fashion them into something nicer with her sewing machine. We were very well fed from fresh veg from the garden and the fish my dad caught from the harbour wall. We kept warm from well stocked open fires because Dad and his friend would clear the trees that died from the 1970’s dearth of Dutch Elm disease. We were well educated because: they made us respect and work for our teachers, we went to Sunday school and we were taken to the library every week. We never knew we were poor.
I am lucky enough to be part of the other half, who has a warm comfortable house that I can afford to pay for, with a plentiful kitchen. We both have good jobs and we never go without. I should never forget how well off I am and today and every day; should count my blessings.