Two years ago we reached the point where the globe’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth and the world’s 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%. This inequality matters a lot at a time when millions of people across the world face a daily struggle to make ends meet and the numbers living in poverty are the highest in many years. Last year in Poland 5.4% of people lived in extreme poverty. Poverty is defined by the minimum subsistence amount, which is now at ca. PLN600.
We (Kelly, Karina and Karolina) meet Maria (that’s her real name) in her flat in Żywiec. It’s one room, a kitchen, a toilet and a vestibule. Maybe 35 square meters. We bring the first boxes (there are 9 of them). As we greet her, her eyes start watering. Our eyes start watering. They will do it a lot in the next half an hour. 25 years ago her husband died and 22 years ago she had her accident, after which she spent 3 years in hospitals. She won’t say what accident and we don’t want to push. At first, she was totally dependant on others. But when her grandson was born 15 years ago she had to take care of him. So she learnt how to change diapers, cook, feed him… Now she is very able. She moves around in a wheelchair, she can grab things with her stumps, use a phone. She can even walk on her knees. And no, we don’t want her to show us, but yes, she jumps off the chair and rushes to the door. Her two dogs follow as they think it’s time for a walk.
Some time ago she had one dog that she took off the street. Some people tried to poison it, so the dog wouldn’t eat. Maria saved it by feeding it from her mouth for two weeks. Now she’s got Pepsi and another one, whose name I can’t recall. Pepsi has problems with her heart and liver, so she’s on a special diet.
If Maria wants to go out, she always needs someone to help her take the wheelchair down, as there are a few stairs to the front door of the building (she lives on the ground floor). She wanted to have a ramp, but the neighbours didn’t agree. There might be a chance to build a ramp to her balcony.
The flat is quite cluttered. There are piles of things everywhere. The cupboard and kitchen cabinets are literally falling apart. She has to keep a lot of her stuff in the basement, cause there’s not enough storage space in the flat. We have no idea where she’ll put all the things that we brought. She definitely needs some new furniture.
Her financial problems started with the accident. A debt collector takes PLN300 each month, the rent is PLN520. This leaves her with some PLN400 for the basic needs. Three times she was almost evicted. Each time she had to go to the housing co-op and beg to let her stay. She doesn’t have a long-term lease. Each time they prolong it only for 3, 4 maybe 6 months. So there’s always that risk.
In the meantime, her grandson’s unpacked all the boxes. Now he’s playing with the Google Home Mini speaker that Kelly bought. It’s voice-controlled and we hope he’ll be able to teach Maria how to use it. The boy is amazing. It’s his turn now to take care of his grandma. He’s in secondary school and he’s learning to be an electrician. We ask him what he would like for Christmas. He just gives this disarming smile and says: “Just my grandma’s happiness”. And it was sooo genuine, you wouldn’t believe.
Maria wants to thank all of you for the kind hearts. She wishes she could hug everyone. We believe that she needs all the help she can get.
We want to investigate her situation in more depth and see if we can do something more than just buy some groceries and furniture.