I’ve been trying to get a handle on reality in Venezuela lately, and this week I got some information that has floored me. The realities that people live with are very diverse, much like the differences we see between a high level executive in a gated community and a single mom on welfare in our country. However, the following information helped me better understand the “middle class” reality in Venezuela. Consider this for a moment:
A teacher in one town in Venezuela currently earns $3.27 for a month of full time work teaching. In addition to that, he gets a stipend for food, which is about $4.51. That is a total income for the month of $7.78.
You may think that prices are just decidedly cheaper there, and you’d be right. But the following is enlightening. Keep in mind that I am only dealing with food prices here, which does not take into account the harsher realities of paying rent, costs of transportation, paying utilities, or purchasing paper goods like toilet paper.
Consider these prices if this were you going to the grocery store. (These prices are from last week, and with an inflation rate of 1000%, things change rapidly.)
Beef — $.93 per pound
Chicken — $.94 per pound
Eggs — $.88 per dozen
Rice — $.44 per pound
Bread — $.66 per loaf
Sugar — $.63 per pound
This is staggering, folks. Imagine getting your paycheck of $7.78 and going to the grocery store to buy a week’s worth of groceries. If you were only purchasing food with your money, you’d have just under $2 to buy groceries for whoever your paycheck is supposed to support. Two dollars, one week. You could purchase the following for this week:
One dozen eggs
One pound of rice
One loaf of bread
In fact, in order to purchase these 3 items you’d have to have a little money set aside from last week. We’re not talking about supper food for tonight, but food for a week for your family.
Want to better understand reality? These are cash prices, and your pay is deposited into your bank account. However, fewer and fewer stores accept debit cards and getting cash from the bank is an ordeal. By an ordeal I mean a minimum of 4 hours of waiting in line, and sometimes that results in being told the cash is gone. On a great day you might be able to withdraw $.25. Yes, a quarter. For four hours of waiting. On many days you would only get 8 cents. And if you’re standing in line at the bank, which is only open maybe 8-5, how can you teach? And how can you ever get your money if you’re teaching full time?
The economic implications are staggering. The need is real. There are ways to help. Contact me if you want more info.
My heart is with Venezuela in a special way because I was born and raised there. Yours may be pulled differently, but I believe most of us can find someone who needs some of what we have. There is a special reward when we pass things on, a natural multiplication when we share. It’s a privilege, and one we may not always have.
These realities in Venezuela remind me of the advice I once got from a friend, “If it were me, I would give what I could. After all, tomorrow it might be me asking for help to get the basics.”