One in every six people in the developing world is a permanent slum-dweller. To identify with such people and in an attempt to help alleviate their suffering, 16 people recently slept out in the grounds of the Eden Uniting Church. Saturday and Sunday, 14 and 15 April, were spent constructing a ‘˜slum’ and surviving the experience. In our conspicuous location only 50 metres from the centre of Eden shops, we made our own houses and cooked over an open fire. We tried to simulate, as well as we could, the conditions that slum-dwellers would face in Dhaka in Bangladesh ‘“ living under found materials like old cardboard or wooden pallets (without council approval), getting water from one tap, eating a limited diet of rice and lentils, having only one set of clothes, no mattresses, no pillows, no hairbrushes or cosmetics, and, hardest of all, doing without all the electronic objects that we rely on. Did I hear a mobile phone? There were other challenges through the weekend such as eating cooked offal to earn suitable small ‘˜luxuries’, such as pillows or plastic sheets. The inevitable rain came during the night and there were some leaks and collapses of ‘˜houses’ as well as some innovative rain coats!
Slum Survivor was organised by Eden UC and Tear Australia to learn about the plight of slum-dwellers and to raise money for a nominated Tear project that supports slum inhabitants. Each participant was sponsored and about $900 was raised.
Tear, with its Bangladeshi partner HEED, works with slum-dwellers to help them understand the causes of their poverty, and learn how to access resources to realise their God-given potential with creativity and dignity. Through organisation and leadership they find a forum in which to learn and change together, and a financial base from which to begin. Micro-credit and training is provided to start self-sustaining businesses like tailoring or livestock rearing. Priority is given to the most marginalised and exploited members of each community, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. These projects provide effective means to break the cycle of poverty.
Some comments from the young Slum Survivors trying to imagine living on a very small income in a slum. Life would be hard. Water and food would always be short and that would lead to problems’. It would be dangerous if you had bad neighbours’. The weather can destroy your house. Plastic is worth more than gold’.
Slum Survivor was a chance to have a bit of fun together and to face the challenges of global poverty. If your church is interested in running a similar event, Tear Australia now has a kit to facilitate churches doing their own Slum Survivor exercise. Contact Ben Thurley at Tear.