My first experience of extreme poverty was a slum community, living perilously on the side of a rubbish dump in South Africa. For ages, when people talked about poverty this was the image that came to mind.
It can be too easy to reduce poverty to a single image. To imagine a malnourished child in ripped clothing, or a rough sleeper at the side of the road. When we do this, we miss some of the complexities, and even risk overlooking situations of poverty altogether.
Weâve gathered together a collection of 22 striking photographs that will help challenge your perception of poverty.
1) Poverty and beauty canât exist side-by-side
From tropical jungles in Indonesia to mountain plains in Bolivia, Compassion works in some of the most beautiful but remote places around the world.
For those living in rural locations, poverty is no better or worse than those living in poverty in an urban setting, however it comes with its own distinct set of challenges.
Eight-year-old EnĂĄn lives the remote village of AlarcĂłn, deep within the jungle of Peru. Despite the beauty of the lush, tropical vegetation, the village is one of the most impoverished communities in the region.
Oloika Village, Kenya
Nasinde with her husband Ndakai, rest against a tree as the Masai Mara stretches out behind them. The couple, both in their seventies adopted their son Lenkai 11 years ago after he was abandoned.
HueHuetenago, western Guatemala
In the community of Huehuetenango many children leave school early because their parents can no longer afford the fees. Thanks to Compassion child sponsorship, we'reÂ helping to reverse this and give children the education they deserve.
Tahuna Island, Indonesia
For Stevi and Arnold who live on Tahuna Island, collecting water is a daily activity. From their home accessing the only clean source of water involves crossing a rocky river. When the rainy season comes, the crossing becomes too hazardous and the water mixes with mud leaving the families no choice but to consume contaminated water.
The mountainous town of Cantel, Guatemala
SertĂŁo is a semi-arid region of Brazil known for its dry climate and water scarcity. Every year, thousands of its inhabitants migrate to the city to find work. For those families who choose to stay, they face a daily struggle with drought as they try to maintain their culture.
2) Children in poverty wear scruffy clothing
Perhaps the first thing that came to mind when you thought of poverty was an image of a malnourished child in ripped and dirty clothing.
At Compassion, we want to be honest about the challenges people face, while upholding and respecting their dignity. For this reason, we make every effort to ensure the children we photograph are always dressed in a way that honours them and protects their dignity.
When you receive a photo of your sponsored child you may notice their smart dress which can seem at odds with the image you had of a child in poverty.
Families want to take pride in the picture of their child that is being sent to strangers on the other side of the world, therefore the same set of good clothing will often be passed from child to child for their photo.
Friends Tete, Henodiji and Nyamedo have big dreams to make sure everyone in their community in Togo feels beautiful.
"When people get their hair done they feel beautiful. They look beautiful. We're going to open a hair salon. I'll wash, she'll cut, and she will style. The name of the salon will be ""I Will Praise You,â says Tete.
In Guatemala, coloured clothing represents the culture, history, traditions and the spirit of each Guatemalan person.Â
3) Those living in poverty donât experience joy
We often describe poverty like a thief that seeks to rob a person of their hope and their joy.
While thereâs no denying this, those facing poverty every day also demonstrate an incredible resilience as the next set of images capture.
Annet with her triplets Patience, Samuel, and Grace.
âWhen my husband found out that it was not twins we were having but triplets he switched off his phone. In our culture, twins are a blessing, but triplets are a curse,â says Annet.
âI am grateful for the help of the Compassion project and I feel so protected here. Without the project I would have nobody to take care of me, but because of them my children and I are healthy are fed and have a place to sleep.â
Alex and Juan play together high up in the hills of the mountain above Playa Verde, Bolivia.
12-year-old Putri and her friends run through the jungle near their home in Indonesia.
Aklobessi (right) and her friend playing a clapping game in Togo.
Aklobessi had only been registered at her local church-based Compassion project for a month when she disappeared. Concerned, the project staff immediately began searching for her and were shocked to discover the little girl had been kidnapped by the temple priestess from the local voodoo shrine.
Upon hearing the news, Fernand, the project director, began to mobilise the Christian church community, reaching out to 11 other Compassion church partners to fast and pray for Akloblessiâs to be brought back home. Fernand did not cease, lobbying the government social workers to intervene and even reaching out directly to the priestess to convince her to release the little girl. Every day, along with his team, he lifted Akloblessi up in prayer.
Eleven months after she was taken, Fernandâs prayers were answered. At last, the priestess agreed to give Akloblessi her freedom. She was able to return home.
Daniel and his brother in Bolivia
Elvis and his mum Alice in Togo.
4) You can always spot poverty
Itâs often easy to assume that poverty will be obvious when we look at photos. These next set of photos show that isnât always the case.
Playa Verde, Bolivia
The beauty of the mountains which dominate the skyline of Playa Verde in La Paz seek to distract us from the reality going on below. Across the city, rich and poor live side-by-side, with the poorest citizens being pushed up the mountain where the landscape is stark and climate harsh.
Rolling hills near Gasutamo, Rwanda
The lush green hills near the mountainous village of Gasutamo, Rwandan seem vibrant and fertile.
Although the rate of malnutrition is decreasing, 37 percent of Rwandan children under five are still chronically malnourished.
5) Poverty is black and white
The World Bank defines bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.90 per day and moderate poverty as less than $3.10 a day. While this is helpful for measuring and comparing poverty across countries and over time, when you do so in absolute terms you miss the other social, cultural and political complexities.
This final collection of photos captures the colour, beauty, hope and faith of those living in poverty. May they continue to remind us that poverty canât be reduced to a single image, thatâs itâs complex, diverse and can surprise us.
Grace and Priscilla from Ghana.
âMy name is Grace and I am 13 years old. I joined Compassion when I was 8 years old. Life was very difficult for us growing up as we did not have money for school and our house was dangerous and unstable to live in after part of it collapsed. In addition, my mother is disabled so the only money our family can make is from the maize my father grows and the items my mother sews. My older sister had to be in and out of school her whole life because money was not much. We come from a poor community and my family has often felt overwhelmed.
âAt Compassion they teach us how to make beautiful bags, clothes and crafts. Theyâve taught us about reading the Bible and being a good friend,â says Grace.
13-year-old Rixie from HondurasÂ
Two boys play football outside Jam Tam Church in the village of Barkoundouba a Fulani, Burkina Faso.
Lorlapor and her friends gathered around a home near the Myanmar boarder.Â
We hope this collection of images has challenged how you see poverty andÂ has even given you a greater insight into your own sponsored childâs world.
What we love most is the overwhelming feeling of hope these images capture, despite the incredibly tough circumstances those photographed face daily.
You can bring hope to a child in poverty today by becoming their sponsor today.
Empower a child to overcome poverty