Ubuntu: Poverty Cannot Destroy It


ubuntu (n.) the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others:

The definition of poverty means both (1) materially poor, having little or no money or goods or other means of support. Dependent on charity or public support, (2) faithful among God’s people who have a heart for the poor, attitude as the poor and are totally dependent on God. Being poor in spirit is to embrace poverty with lack of material possessions as good for the soul.

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Photo credit: Ingrid Najarro

By observation of the Tanzanian people, maybe people of Arusha are poor in material goods and money, but they are rich in being good to each other, integrate faith and love into every aspect of their life. Working hard themselves for their families and never once did I hear complaints about how hard their life is. True stiff upper lip. I cannot say that about myself. Coming from an individualistic, self-serving society of United States, the Tanzanian people and the poor of Arusha put Americans to shame. I could go boldly as to say America does not have hard-working as we all believe.


Walking the streets of Arusha’s Mianzini area, it seemed all around through tragic and necessary, poverty had strengthened the souls of those I had interacted with. From the women who set up shop in the middle of her neighborhood in order to support her family, the shop mistress who works 14-15 hours a day or more so her son can have a future at college, and the community church who support each of its members in times of tragedy. Each familiar with poverty, each found faith in Convoy of Hope and God. Each willing to extend compassion, and kindness towards all interactions with others.


The Hole In The Gospel by Robert Stearns uses an allegory of the church made up of impoverishing Africans who gather without a permanent place or proper funding but gave generously to the community within all their reach. The distinction is clear when you look at it from the perspective of the poor in Mianzini, the African people (African church) compare to the average American people (American mega church) which the author noted lacked the resources was the ones giving the most to those in need. The American church with all the resources was the ones giving the least to those in need.

This allegory was observed not only in Arusha, but everywhere I went in Tanzania. Those who have little has fewer qualms about sharing their resources with others. Something to learn from the Tanzanians in sharing what little resources we have into giving to those in need. Hopefully, this humility of poverty will be integrated into my daily life. Ubuntu: compassion for our fellow neighbor and kindness to those who we interact with.