Ask any child in America what he wants to be when he grows up and you might hear firefighter, nurse, astronaut. Teacher, doctor, musician. Though their answers differ, these children all have something in common: They can answer the question.
Ask a child in Africa what he or she wants to be when all grown up and you may be met with a blank stare. Shrugging shoulders. “I don’t know.” Often, they can’t fully comprehend the question and they don’t know how to answer. They don’t know, because they don’t know how to dream.
I’ve seen the blank stares. I’ve watched the shoulders shrug. I’ve heard the “I don’t know”s. Once when I asked a young boy what he wants to be when he grows up, he answered with a statement that has never left me: “I want to be alive.”
Poverty kills dreams. It murders hope. It squashes every last ounce of ambition. Poverty impacts the old, but targets the young. It steals more than full bellies and healthy bodies; it suffocates the future and squanders potential.
What Africa needs—what anyone affected by extreme poverty needs—is not a hand-out. Africa needs more than charity, more than money, more than employment opportunities. All of those are vitally important, but Africa needs something even greater. Africa needs to learn to dream again.
Sparking dreams in people’s hearts instills hope, and hope combats poverty. Hope reaches through the fog of disillusionment and despair. Hope shouts “You CAN!” when everything else is screaming “You CAN’T!” It opens eyes to the possibility of a better future and shines light on the way forward. It bolsters courage to believe you’re not only capable, but you are worthy.
Hope is the greatest antidote for extreme poverty.