Brother, can you spare $150?

Hey, a dime doesn’t go as far as it used to.

But when it comes to understanding the realities of global poverty, it can be hard to get a handle on just how poor the poorest countries around the world are. We know the richest one percent makes the same amount per year as the world’s poorest 57 percent, but what does that mean in terms we can relate to?

Here’s a number that helps to put things in perspective: It takes just $150 to feed a child in one of these poor countries for an entire year.

That was a detail that caught my attention this morning during Carolyn Woo’s presentation on addressing global poverty at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. Think about that number for a minute—how long does it take you to spend $150? Is it one’s week’s trip to the grocery store? Maybe even one night out at a nice restaurant? It certainly isn’t enough to buy a year’s worth of food.

Even if $150 a year seems like an amount we can spare to help feed someone, there’s a lot more that goes into curing the ills of global poverty. Woo, who took the helm as president of Catholic Relief Services less than two months ago, talked today about finding innovative solutions to help lift people out of poverty. It’s not about giving them handouts to get through the hard times, but finding unique ways to help them become self-sufficient.

My favorite of these ideas was the arbor loo, which is a simple outhouse designed to create fertile soil. Once the loo is moved the land is used to plant a fruit tree, which provides nutritious food for the family and, thanks to the fertile soil, enough surplus fruit to sell. A simple solution, but one that can yield big benefits.

For more on how you can help with these kind of innovative ideas, visit More tomorrow from the CSMG, where the focus of the day will be on domestic policy issues.