living in extreme poverty [the survive125 challenge]

Written by Crystal Rowe

Crystal has a heart for making the church and the Christian faith real and relevant to the world around her and is passionate about serving others in the name of Christ. Crystal is married to her perfect match, D and is Mommie to A and the two sweetest kitties on earth.

May 31, 2012

My name is Divya Patel. I’m a brickmaker in India with 4 kids. My family and I live on less than $1.25 a day. This is a month in my life.

I choose to live in the slums rather than the village because even though it’s crowded and dangerous, but we are near a city, so we can earn more money. I’ll earn about $0.64/day.

Day 2 of the month and firewood prices just increased. We’ll have to be cold through the night so that we can afford to cook our meals. This is an unfair choice to make, but one that has to be made.

Day 5 – my son has outgrown his school uniform. It was too small already – but now he can’t even pull it on. Unless I buy a new one, he will have to be removed from school. We really don’t have the money, but without an education his future is hopeless. So I guess I’ll pay it…

This week, I earned 224 rupees. That’s about $4.25. After spending 169 on food and 24 on firewood, I’m left with 31 … about $0.59.

Day 8 of the month – my baby girl is terribly sick. She was so thirsty while out playing and drank the water. It’s dirty, but it’s all we have. There’s no one else to take care of her, so I’ll have to miss work until she’s better. It takes three days … that’s 96 rupies I won’t earn this week. I don’t know how I’ll do it…

Good news comes in! My oldest daughter has been offered a job – it’ll make us 12 rupies a day. It’s not much, but we need every bit we can get. I’ve heard not so good things about the employers though … they may be linked to sex trafficking. I can’t imagine that stuff happening to my daughter … and if we turn down this job, she may never be offered another. I don’t know what to do….

Praise God! My son received a sponsorship and we will be reimbursed for his school uniform. Every once in a while we get a break…

My youngest baby girl is due for her measles vaccination – but it cost 150 rupies. We just can’t afford it right now. If we pay for the vaccination, we won’t have food this week. We’ll take our chances…even though I know it’s not wise. After all – that money will feed four people … not just vaccinate one. I have to be practical.

Day 13 – are you kidding me? That thug is back … this time he’s demanding 300 rupies … or he’ll come after us. I can report it to the police – but will they really do anything about it? If I pay him, we’ll be protected … but we won’t be able to eat. I’ll try to report it.

The police want 350 rupies for the report. We have no choice but to pay it. I should have paid the thug…

We’re out of clean water again and it’s three hours away…My son will have to go once every three days. He’ll miss school, but I can’t afford for us to keep drinking dirty water. Not after that last illness.

Day 16 – it’s rainy season again. The recent flash flood caused 100 rupies worth of damage to our home. We could either repair it or move somewhere else. Losing two days of work is less than 100 rupies, so I guess we better start packing.

All that rain made our food moldy. We can’t afford anything else – and that mold may make us sick. Guess we’ll go hungry this week.

I was raped last night while walking home from work. I know I should get tested for HIV, but if I’m HIV positive I may lose my job….

Those darn riots cause me to stay home from work two days this week – that’s 64 rupies I lost…

My mom’s sick again. It’s 100 rupies for medication. I didn’t get my baby girl vaccinated … I can’t spend that money on my mom. She’s old anyway … I know that sounds harsh, but I don’t have a choice.

I’ve been offered 10 rupies for my vote this coming election. I know it’s not much – but I don’t have to do much to earn it … I’ll take it.

Hallelujah! A well has been built only minutes from home. My son no longer has to miss school to collect our water!

We just got news that my sister had her baby. We should be celebrating, but instead – she isn’t here. She had complications during childbirth and didn’t make it. We could take the baby as our own or send it to an orphanage. I’ve heard terrible things about the orphanage, but I really can’t afford another child…

My husband just showed up drunk. We haven’t seen him in months. He threatens all of us … do I take them outside or go to my neighbor’s house? I’ll go next door – maybe they can help.

Thankfully she takes us in. She tells me about a microfinancing program that is helping her to run a small shop out of her home selling food, charcoal, and other necessities to the community. I wonder if I could get help from them?

We made it through the month. I’m not sure how. I only pray that we’re as lucky next month.

This was my experience as I took the Survive125 challenge. Nearly 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty – less than $1.25/day. Experience what it feels like to walk in their shoes.


  1. Cara Sexton

    Impactful, truly. Thanks for shedding light, Crystal. 

    • Crystal Rowe

      Thanks for stopping by Cara – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    It’s easy to forget all the “extras” that come along with poverty. Like impossible choices, dangerous neighborhoods, dirty water–and worse.

    Thank you, Crystal. 

  3. Lheyd59

    Wow…we know this type of scenario goes on in many parts of the world each day. I can’t imagine the horror of it. Lori

    • Crystal Rowe

      Lori – it’s so sad to think about how many people deal with this type of stuff every single day. This scenario happened to be in India, but I’m sure people in our own backyard deal with it too. I, like you, can’t imagine what it would be like. It makes me so thankful for what I have.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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living in extreme poverty [the survive125 challenge]

by Crystal Rowe time to read: 5 min