Over 3 million Australians are living below the national poverty line. Over 238 million people around the world have nothing to eat today. So where are we meant to start? Do we look after our backyard first? Or is there room to extend the boundaries of our backyard and think globally in our giving?

Blog Image 5

Each one of us is feeling the stretch of the cost-of-living crisis. We walk through the grocery aisles and sense the familiar dread of the balance at the checkout. We drive our cars that little bit longer to avoid the increasing petrol prices for another day. We wince as the barista announces our total is $7.50 for our morning coffee. Life as we know it is changing, and for families already doing it tough in Australia, the shift is devastating.

As Australians, we’re often told that everybody deserves a fair go and that we need to look after our own backyard first. But as our access to knowledge of what is going on around the world increases rapidly, can we truly focus only on our backyard in Australia? Maybe it’s time to extend the boundaries of our yard and embrace our global neighbours in the Australian dream of a fair go for all.

Blog Image 1

Poverty in Australia

Today, almost one million Australians are working at least two jobs to keep up with the rising cost of living. On top of that, almost 1 in 3 Australians plan on taking on extra work this year to add to their income. For many of our neighbours in our own backyard, the cost-of-living crisis has devastatingly pushed them below the poverty line.

In 2023, 1 in 8 Australians including 1 in 6 children were part of this group. According to the Australian Council of Social Service, families with sole parents and households in which the main income earner is unemployed are the hardest hit by poverty. The situation is heartbreaking and widespread across our neighbourhood.

“When there’s a downturn in the economy, people who are already experiencing disadvantage feel it the most,” says Katie Maskel from UNICEF Australia.

“While some households can withstand economic pressure for quite some time, it’s lower income families, who are living paycheck to paycheck, week after week, who don’t have that margin to stay afloat,” she says.

It is unsurprising then that we may feel a pull to support Australians facing hardship. When we can see crisis in our own backyards, it feels tangible. That’s why we at Compassion Australia love the work our friends The Smith Family and The Salvation Army are doing to support the children and families in our local neighbourhood.

But the cost-of-living crisis extends much further than Australia. So how do we know where we should be giving to support our neighbours? To answer this question, we must first ask “who is my neighbour?”

Blog Image 2

Who is your neighbour?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37

In this parable, the Samaritan crossed racial, political, cultural and social barriers because he saw someone with a need, and he had the resources to meet them.

In Genesis 1:27, we read that God created mankind in His own image. He created man and woman according to His likeness. Therefore, every person that walks the earth is made in the image of God. This deepens the idea of neighbours; it means we are all connected. Distance defines geographical neighbours, but our kinship is global.

Good neighbours transcend barriers. Good neighbours extend the boundaries of their backyards.

Meet some of your neighbours

For these hard-working new mothers, the money they make buying and selling fish is no longer enough to support their families. Before the global food crisis, they were able to get by. Now, rising inflation in Togo is pushing vulnerable families like theirs further into poverty. Compassion’s local church partners, with your support, are stepping in to fill the gap.

How can you support your neighbours ethically?

When we give to support our neighbours facing poverty, it’s important to acknowledge a history of saviourism complexes. Saviourism is an approach to international aid which, deliberately or inadvertently, positions donors and non-profits as ‘heroes’ who are liberating or rescuing people who would be helpless without their resources.

Saviourism directly contradicts the work we do at Compassion. In partnership with over 8,600 local churches, Compassion-assisted support is given to locals by locals. These churches have existed in their communities long before Compassion came along and will be there long after we leave. The staff and volunteers know the children and families they serve personally and can meet their needs as they arise.

At first glance, a sponsorship program or ongoing donation to somebody you don’t know living across the world might seem like an imbalance of gifts. But according to local photojournalist Edwin, living in the Philippines, this isn’t actually the case. Edwin has seen firsthand the transforming power of the local church in a child’s life—and, even after 20 years, he never tires of sharing about it.

“I really find the sponsorship program balances the world,” he says. “People who have material possession can share that. But they may lack in other things like faith and simple joy. And that is what people here have. They may not have the comforts that other people do, but they can share genuine joy, despite the absence of material wealth.”

Blog Image 3

This is what’s happening with your neighbours today

Jesus teaches in Matthew 22:34-40 that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbours. Right now, more than 8,600 local churches are working as the hands and feet of Jesus to respond to the global food crisis.

We thank God for the work of our local partners and the generous support of Australians. But the global food crisis is still severely affecting nine of our partner countries:

  • Haiti
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • Burkina Faso
  • Malawi
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Sri Lanka

Today, over 238 million of our neighbours have nothing to eat. The impact of childhood malnutrition is catastrophic and leads to growth stunting and wasting, poor academic performance and intellectual development, increased prevalence of attention deficit disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and cancer later in life, child marriage (as girls are offered in exchange for dowries), child labour (as children leave school early to support their families) and even premature death.

For children living in poverty, the impact of the global food crisis makes their already vulnerable situation even more precarious.

“As humanitarians, we are facing the greatest challenge we’ve ever seen. We need the global community to act swiftly, smartly, and compassionately to reverse course and turn the tide on hunger,” says World Food Programme Executive Director, Cindy McCain.

Blog Image 4

How big is your backyard?

Ultimately, yes, it is loving to look after our own backyard first. But when we look at how Jesus teaches us to love our neighbour, we learn that our backyard is much bigger than first thought. As we navigate the cost-of-living crisis and the global food crisis together, we can push the boundaries of our neighbourhood and stand in our true global neighbourhood.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” —Galatians 5:14 (NIV)

Are you ready to extend love to your neighbour? By giving a food pack to provide immediate relief or funding agricultural training as part of a long-term solution, you can help change the lives of the 238 million people still facing life-threatening acute food insecurity. Join your global neighbourhood and give today.

Written by Abigail Hogarth, Compassion Australia