Joel vs. Poverty

My son Joel is six years old. He is quite an amazing boy, for lots of reasons. One of them is this: he has worked out that the world is unjust; he has learned that poverty exists, and he is not happy about it. He had heard a few things at school and church, but when we watched a short video made by Tearfund, he decided that he couldn’t just stand by and let this happen.

So for the past few weeks, he’s been badgering everyone he meets to donate money to his fundraising appeal. It’s not hugely developed, or even politically correct – it’s a cardboard Frubes container with the words ‘Poor Box’ written on the side. As of today he’s raised £7.22 with it.

This really hasn’t come from my wife and I. To be honest, we’d probably never have thought it was fair to weigh down a six year old with the troubles of the world – but he’s teaching us that children have an amazing sense of justice. So we asked him to dictate to us how he was feeling. These are Joel’s words, unedited. He may not be perfectly informed, but his heart is genuine:

“I’m getting really sad about the people who are poor in the world. I don’t understand who did this to them. I watched a video about people who are poor, and I want to help them. There has to be somewhere for them to live like a proper house, and I want someone to give them lots to eat. I want the children to have proper toys, like proper balls, toy trains… I’ve got so many toys at home, and they’ve got none. It isn’t fair that they drink dirty water from wells, and we get clean water from our taps. Some of them can’t go to school, and they don’t have any money. I want to help them so that they can have lots of food to eat.”

Joel is getting frustrated that he can’t raise much money with the ‘Poor Box’.  So, again of his own volition, he decided he’d like to do a sponsored challenge. He has decided to run for two miles (which is further than his dad can comfortably run), and so we’ve set a date in a couple of weeks time to do it. He is aiming to raise £60, because that seems to him to be the sort of amount that can do some serious good (his other suggestion was ‘a trillion pounds’).

You can see Joel’s sponsored challenge page here. And if you feel so inclined, you can put a couple of quid in the Poor Box.

38 responses to “Joel vs. Poverty

  1. Martin,

    Your son and ours should get together. Mark is nearly 8. Two years ago, I was about to move to a new appointment as a minister and we visited the school our children would be attending. They had a display of a local charity that is connected with a Ugandan village, where people relied on growing and selling chillis to eke out a bare living. In response to the children’s questions my wife and I had to explain about privilege and poverty in the world, etc.

    We got home, and at the meal table Mark said he had an announcement. “I’ve changed my mind about what I’m going to do when I grow up. I’m not going to be an author. I’m going to save Africa.”

    “How are you going to do that?”

    “I’m going to open supermarkets all across Africa, where the people can get their food.”

    “But what about the money they would need to buy the food?”

    “That’s easy, I’ll open money shops as well.”

    He still talks about saving Africa. He rarely spends money that is given to him. He has much more in his savings account than his big sister, who gleefully and naïvely talks about buying an iPad with her pocket money. He hasn’t done anything like your Joel’s sponsorship, but I’ll show him this and it may inspire him further. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. so so beautiful to watch this unfold a little bit, and really inspiring!
    a real privilege to be able to contribute just a small part of the current total.
    well done joel, and you for facilitating the online donating!

  3. Saw this on Twitter and am thoroughly inspired. Joel has a wonderful sense of justice which quite literally gets me choked up. Would you mind if I used this story in an RE lesson on how people try to tackle injustice? It’s the kind of story which just might inspire my students too!

  4. Joel, you are a remarkable little man . I am now following your story in Ireland and have passed your wonderful story onto all my Irish friends and family.. Keep up the good work !! You could be Prime Minister one day xxx

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  6. Wow! This is pretty amazing and inspiring, being watching it develop over the past 12 hours or so with great interest. There’s a book (or at least a series of articles!) in James Corden’s question, how do we help Joel beat poverty?

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  8. Isn’t it really interesting that God uses children to shame the pride of the wealthy adults ? A hunger to give something from nothing… Is this not Love, is this not grace ?

  9. Hi Joel! You are such a lovely lad. I bet Jesus is smiling at you and is so delighted with you that you are doing this on His behalf. He is always looking for Ambassadors like you to represent Him here on earth! A very BIG WELL DONE to you and do keep up the good work! I will be
    sending you a contribution to help you meet and hopefully surpass your target. I will be following your story and work! Stay well, Joel and God bless you!

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  12. good on you joel for your compassion and heart for Jesus. good on your mum and dad too for supporting you in expressing it practically. i agree with your feelings about how unfair it is that we have lots, but some people have nothing. it was making me very sad too. then i read a magazine by Tearfund about how they were helping lots of people to have clean water, food and schooling, and so our family (we have two boys a bit younger than you) recently decided to give some of our money to them each month too. i really hope your run goes well in a couple of weeks and i will tell lots of people that i know about what you’re doing!

    martin, i’m pretty sure i recognise you from homerton. i think you were a couple of years ahead of me – certainly if your ‘long placement’ in your previous post was your 4th year one and in 2000. i was ’98-’02, same year as matt clarke. our paths wouldn’t have crossed but i thought i’d say hi anyway!

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  15. everything about this is absolutely beautiful. way to go, joel. thank you for being such an inspiration.

  16. You’re the man Joel! We thank God for you’re heart to serve! Keep up the good work! I heard about your story from a friend in England, and I live thousands of miles away near Houston, Texas, USA! We are all rooting for you! God bless you and your work.

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  18. I love this, go Joel! I too have a 6yr old who has started to ponder on the inequalities in the world. She keeps asking if we can send food to poor people. When I said we can give money to people to can take the food for us she replied “but can’t we put some rice in an envelope and send it to them”?! I was thinking we should respond to this and take some action as a family, reading Joel’s story shows just how powerful an effect children can have on the world and that we should encourage our children to take action. Their view is simple which is right because the issue of poverty in the world IS black and white.

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  25. Great job!!!! This is the future Generation – a “Joshua” Generation !
    Well done love from South Africa!

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