Perspective on other countries - "going out to eat" - What is that like for people in poverty?

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Hi- I recently sponsored a child from a large city in Guatemala. In a recent letter, I am so glad to hear about their life. One of the things that they like to do is "go out to eat." In my own family, we hardly ever go out to eat. In fact, when we go places we take our own food along so we don't have to buy prepared food. One of the reasons is because purchasing prepared or restaurant food is very expensive compared to what I can get at the grocery store and make myself.

My question, what is going out to eat like for a person in poverty? Is it expensive like it is in the United States? It's just a strange feeling hearing that my sponsored child goes out to eat and my son and I just carried our food & drinks into the state fair in backpacks so we didn't have to spend the money on food and drink at the fair. In the U.S., eating at a restaurant with a family would cost several hours of wages. What does poverty mean? My experience with people from other countries who live in the U.S. is that they will have designer clothes and they will eat out at restaurants, but they will short things related to housing household supplies if they must.

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Posted 3 years ago

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Garry Sagel

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It is an expensive proposition for people in these countries also, Beth. I think you should ask some questions. I don't know what he/she means by "going out to eat." I highly doubt they are referring to restaurants. That said, I really don't know what they are trying to communicate. I think this requires some follow-up questions on your part. I have children in Guatemala, and they seldom walk through the doors of a restaurant.
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Thanks so much for your reply, Garry. Because of your comment, I typed the Spanish sentence into a translator, and it said "to go hunting somewhere, to eat and to have fun", even though the specific word does not translate on its own into 'hunt'. I use to spend more time typing 'strange' translations into a translator, but I've just been so busy this summer that I forgot about that option. If it means hunting and picnicking, it just goes to show that we should not jump to conclusions about a translation. It should make for some interesting conversation as I ask questions in my next letter! Look what I would have missed out on if I would not have inquired about this. Have a good day, Garry.

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mark bowen

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What a provocative issue; this could prove very divisive!  Who wears $150 shoes, drives luxury cars and goes home to a tar paper shack and eats rice and beans for dinner? People whose priorities are out-of-whack.

Poverty is the driving force behind the Compassion project and personally I have a difficult time justifying eating out when the family income is such that appeals for assistance are necessary. 

In my opinion the cost of buying food from vendors anywhere in the world is an extravagance that the poverty stricken can in no way afford if, indeed, they're truly economically disadvantaged. Meals prepared at home will always be the only option for people that "live hand to mouth" as there's no question that cost of meals anywhere but home are prohibitive.

I can, though, see room for a little gray area in a largely black and white issue such as this. Do you know how often this occurs? They do, as you said, live in a large city where access to street vendors is widespread and it may not necessarily break the bank if it's done as an indulgence from time to time, in order to feel better about life, and not as a habit. 

do have a problem with "poverty stricken" families "going out to eat" because there are families being helped by Compassion for whom the idea of buying a meal, out, for the family, as an enjoyable diversion, would be as unthinkable as flying to the moon.

I'm guessing that Compassion has family income guidelines in place that must be met in order to be considered eligible for inclusion in the project - so I'm really curious to see the responses you get.
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Mark, I also have another Compassion child who I asked if he had ever been to a fair (or something like that which our family had done), and he replied that his family didn't have money to do things like that. I have another child who said they had been to the fair (which is great they could do that too). My experiences with people in the U.S. have nothing to do with Compassion, just with personal contact with people who grew up in another country. If you see my comment I just made to Garry, perhaps my letter just had a translation issue that gave the wrong impression. To me, going out to eat means going to a restaurant. But now that I typed the Spanish sentence from my child into a translator myself, it says they like to hunt and eat, so perhaps my child meant a picnic? And I think you have a very good point, perhaps an occasional stop at an affordable place is not out of the question. I will certainly not judge on that one sentence/translation, but initially I was shocked.
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Hi Beth,

Quite sure they mean buying a meal or snack from a street vendor means "going out to eat".  That would be about 50 cents to 1 dollar per meal.  We have 2 sponsor kids, 1 in Burkina Faso and 1 in Bolivia.

We sent 100 dollars per child for their birthday money and yes... from the purchases, we could tell that our child in Burkina Faso bought more items of necessity (food staples) than our child in Bolivia.

Burkina Faso 100 dollar birthday gift:
  • small mattress to sleep on
  • oil for cooking
  • cartons of spaghetti pasta
  • cartons of soap
  • milk
  • rice
  • corn
  • candies
  • ball to play with
  • clothes
  • shoes
Bolivia 100 dollar birthday gift:

  • clothes
  • American like breakfast cereals
  • Crackers
  • 3 pairs of shoes
  • socks
I saw in a documentary about Guatemala (Living on 1 dollar a day documentary on Netflix),a group of neighbors would each save a dollar and put it together in a pool every month and it would be given to a person in the pool so each family had a turn receiving a windfall at some point in the future.  This is how they look after one another and you get a chance to splurge and celebrate with ya.... possibility of eating out. 

Africa.... seems just harder... crops can't even seem to grow... the weather is horrible...drought or flood.  South America in a way.... is less harsh.  I am happy then if they do get to eat out.... there is still happiness and love in poverty. 

I know what your saying though........ I rarely go out to eat..... but it's personal priorities.  I have friends who have less financially, but enjoy going out to eat.  The person in charge of our Bolivian sponsor girl's center wrote in the letter to us about the center..... something along the lines of please pray for the parents because they like to go out and are big party people which is why the children suffer.... I am thinking alcohol is a problem .. Then you have the problem of not enough food for the kids on a daily basis.  But I believe Compassion is having workshops for the parents and  teaching and mentoring in a Christ-like method.  Our Megan from Bolivia wrote to us, she is 10 years old.... I enjoy going to the Compassion Center  and learning about Jesus because it is something new for me. 
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Hi Patty, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. In different things I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that poverty in Africa is much worse than poverty in Central America, even though it is very real both places and I am so happy to be helping my CA children. I have also noticed a difference in how gift money can be spent just because of different family situations within the same country (one of my children lost their father shortly after I started sponsoring, so they have had some very great needs to try to overcome, and I am so very pleased with the ways Compassion as helped them in using my extra gifts to make permanent changes for the family, once they got past the initial just trying to get enough food every day stage). You are right, personal priorities are different everywhere. I, too, could afford to eat out sometimes, but choose not too. It is sad that some kids have to struggle because of their parents poor choices, but I guess this is true everywhere. What an interesting story how the families pool the money just so one family can splurge. (Although, in my mind I would still save my dollar and in a year have $12, but there again it is personal priorities.) Thanks for sharing.
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Shannon Massey, Employee

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Hi Beth!
I think it is so interesting to read through and hear about the numerous different stories and experiences that other sponsors have had! I am thankful for places like this where you all have the opportunity to share with one another! 
It was such a smart idea to use a translation tool to see if there was a different context behind this sentence! It is incredible how the same words have such vast differences in meaning around the world! :) However, please know that if you ever have something like this come up, we would encourage you to write your child with additional questions and see what additional information they can provide you! Like you discovered, they may have meant something completely different, and often times you end up learning something new about your kiddo! 
Just to add a little bit of context, as I know a few of our friends on here have been wondering, Compassion does have very strict guidelines that they follow to decide which kiddos have the most need of our program. One of them is family income, which must be below $1.90 per day, many of which live far below that. Therefore, as you can imagine, going out to eat as we do here in America would be a whole different experience for families in these areas. 
Thank you again for your support of your sweet kiddos and for your time, encouragement and love that you invest! :) 

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