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the Ladder of Economic

In t his a c t iv it y participants will gain perspective as to
where they stand on the “ladder of economic development”
in relation to the rest of the world’s population. They will also
gain a greater understanding of the economic trap in which the
extremely poor are caught.

t i m e r e q u i r e d : 3 0 M i n u t e s | i NT E ND E D F O R G R A D E s 9 - 1 2

» Masking Tape
Mat er ial s
N eed ed

» Seven copies of Resource 1, “Labels and Tokens”

» Bibles, one for each participant

Preparation Needed
» Using masking tape, create a “ladder” on the floor, with six lines (two feet apart) as the “rungs.”

» To make the activity more effective, select seven volunteers before the meeting. Tape
onto each volunteer one of the roles from Resource 1, “Labels and Tokens.” Each volunteer
will represent a person from a different situation/nation. Ask them to do some research into
their nation or situation and present this additional information during the activity when they
read their role aloud.

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Activity Steps
1 Invite each of the seven volunteers to come to the front of the room one at a time,
asking them to share who they are and the situation that is on their “label card” (which you can
tape to their back after they read it). If they have done any research of their own, they can share
it with the group now.

2 Di s c us s w i t h t he la r ger gr o up where they think this individual would stand on the

ladder. Have the person take their spot on the ladder, until all seven members are placed.

3 Fina l ly, gi v e e a ch v o lunt eer their situational token (one at a time). Ask each
person to read their token aloud and then have the group discuss how this situation will affect
the person’s movement up or down the ladder of economic development. Tape the token onto the
volunteer’s label card once they’ve read it.

4 Int r o d uc e t he c o nc ept of economic development using the following key points:

» Economic development occurs when the well-being of people in a community or
country increases.

» One example is when people living at the extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day, lacking
enough food and clean water to survive, start making enough money to not only
survive but thrive. This improves the quality of life for their family and community.

» Imagine that economic development is a ladder, with the higher rungs representing
steps up the path to economic well-being. Now think about the fact that roughly 1
billion people around the world—one of every six people—cannot even make it onto
the first rung to start climbing. They are caught in the poverty trap—too poor, too ill,
too hungry to climb, they are fighting just to survive. They are struggling against
absolute poverty, unable to secure even the basics of life.

» A few rungs up the ladder is the upper end of the low-income world, where 1.5 billion
are surviving but struggling to make ends meet. They suffer from chronic financial
hardship, lack basic amenities, and are vulnerable to many diseases.

» The next few rungs are occupied by about 2.5 billion people in the middle-income
world. Their income may be a few thousand dollars a year. Many of them live in cities
and are able to secure some comfortable amenities. Their children go to school, have
access to medicine, and enjoy adequate nutrition.

» Still higher up the ladder are the remaining 1 billion in the high-income world. The
majority of these people live in North America and Europe, with an increasing
number living in middle-income countries such as China, Brazil, and Mexico.

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» More than half of the world is experiencing economic progress. But the greatest
tragedy is that one-sixth of humanity does not even have a foot on the ladder of
economic development. Even though life-saving solutions exist—like medicine,
drought-resistant seeds, bed nets for protection from malaria, and more—these people
lack the money to obtain them. (Note: Statistics based on The End of Poverty, Jeffrey D.
Sachs, 2005, Penguin Books.)

5 A s k y o ur gr o up to reflect on what they remember about the story of Sodom and

Gomorrah. You may need or wish to refresh their memories by reading Genesis 19:1-17.

6 N o w h av e t he gr o up read Ezekiel 16:49-50 and reflect on the following questions:

» What strikes you as you hear Sodom’s sin described in Ezekiel?

» How would you summarize Sodom’s sin as expressed in Ezekiel?

» Do you think our world is doing enough to address global poverty?

» What more could we do? What more could I do?

7 Int r o d uc e the Millennium Development Goals and briefly discuss why each one is
important. Be sure to include the following information in your discussion:

» At the Millennium Summit held in New York in September 2000, leaders from 189
nations gathered to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing
their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a
series of development targets with a deadline of 2015.

» These goals are called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They are
summarized as follows: (Visit for more information.)

• Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

• Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

• Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

• Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality

• Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health

• Goal 6: Combat HIV and AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases

• Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

• Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

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8 r e a d t o ge t he r Isaiah 58:6-7. Then discuss the following questions:

» What is God looking for from his people?

» Discuss examples of what living out verses 6 and 7 could look like locally and globally.

9 c o n c l ud e y o ur t ime together in prayer.

Copyright © 2011 World Vision, Inc., P.O. Box 9716, Mail Stop 321, Federal Way, WA 98063-9716, All rights reserved.

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Resource 1

Labels and Tokens

I am a young professional adult in Shanghai, China. I hold a university degree and now
have a high-income job in the city. I work at a technological export business. My country
is still home to many poor people, but in the last few decades, we have been improving our
country’s economic standing by increasing our exports. In 1980, we exported $20 billion
worth of goods. In 2004, that number was up to $400 billion. Many of the things you
buy every day are made in China. This has given us opportunity for foreign investment,
improved ports for global shipments, and more.


I work at UCLA doing research and development for a technological company. My
company pays for me to travel around the world, sharing our scientific knowledge with
people in major cities in Asia and Europe. I also enjoy personal travel to beach resorts. I
grew up in the Bronx in New York. I saw poverty, but not like what some other countries
experience. I received a student loan to attend college, and although I am working to pay
back this debt, I am also able to enjoy many of the finer things in life.

I am an IT (information technology) worker. A developing country is an attractive place
for high-technology enterprises to set up. By coming to India, these companies save money,
but also introduce our growing economy to sophisticated technology and advanced
management processes. Having these companies in our country has helped us learn from
their processes and helped many of us move up the economic ladder. I grew up in a village
outside Hyderabad. In 1950, the population of India was 350 million, and now it’s over
1 billion. Many people in rural areas are still living in extreme poverty, but I was able to
move to the city and get an education. I support my family members who still live in the
village. My dad sells rice near his home.

Along with hundreds of other women, I work in a clothing factory in Dhaka. I grew up in
the countryside and never learned to read or write. Our village was poor, with no access
to clean water, and diseases were rampant. My family wanted me to marry young and
have many children, but I did not want to raise my children in such conditions. As a young
woman, I saw this job as an opportunity to travel to the city to work, gain skills, and make
a decent income. If I can save enough money, I would like to go back to my village one day
and start a sewing co-op.


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I am a young father of four. After more than a decade of civil war in the 1990s, my country
is still slowly recovering. The rebel soldiers forced our entire village out so they could claim
the diamonds in the nearby mountains. My whole village lived in a camp for internally
displaced people for some time. I am unable to work right now because my arm was cut
off during the war. Together, the people of my area are trying to rebuild our burned villages
and farmland. Only two out of every five children in our area go to school, and the average
lifespan is only 55 years because of the poverty we face.


I am 10 years old. My father is a farmer who barely grows enough food for us to survive.
I have seven siblings. I do not go to school. Instead I work at a cocoa plantation. My
country is the biggest exporter of cocoa in the world. Hundreds of thousands of workers
in the cocoa fields are at risk of machete injuries and pesticide poisoning. Children my age
and younger are sometimes kidnapped and sold into slavery to fuel the world’s taste for


I am from Haiti, a neighbor to the Dominican Republic. I left my country for the promise
of a better life. I traveled by bus to work and live at a sugarcane plantation in the DR. The
company I work for took my papers away, so now I am basically a slave. I get a very low
wage, there is no clean water, no school for my children, and no access to healthcare. No
one has ever told us about basic human rights.

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Situational Tokens
Note: The following are all fictional situations created for the purpose of this simulation.

S h a ngha i : The Yellow River is drying up. Climate change is taking effect. There is not
enough water for the people in Shanghai. Water is severely polluted as a result of chemical
runoff from the many factories.

C a l i f o r n i a : This worker decides he wants to use his science-based technologies in

developing countries and displacement camps to help people out of the poverty trap. His
ideas include such things as drought-resistant seeds, nitrogen-producing plants to replace
nitrogen in depleted soils, fertilizer that produces triple crop yields, and rocks that absorb

India : This young man is offered the opportunity to work at at a major technology
company in the United States. He decides to use his new income to help his family who are
still in India to get an education. He also decides to contribute part of his earnings to the
Global Fund to Fight Malaria.

B a ngl a d e s h: A microfinance organization begins offering loans to women to start their

own small business. This worker starts her own sewing business in her home village and
begins employing other women.

Si e r r a L e o ne : As in many African countries, HIV infection is a constant threat. A sister

and brother-in-law of this young father have contracted the virus. They have three young
children and no way to access the medical care they need to treat the disease.

Iv o ry C o a s t: The cocoa company decides to incorporate fair wages and fair conditions
for the workers in their cocoa plantations and factories. Laws are put into effect to ban child

D.R .: The DR is asking all foreigners who don’t have identification papers to leave the
country. Where will this worker go with no money, no land, no education, and no social

Permission to reproduce is granted. © 2011 World Vision, Inc.

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About World Vision
W o r l d Vi s i o n is a Christian humanitarian organization
dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities
worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of
poverty and injustice. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, World
Vision serves alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of
God’s unconditional love for all people. We see a world where each
child experiences “fullness of life” as described in John 10:10. And we
know this can be achieved only by addressing the problems of poverty
and injustice in a holistic way. That’s how World Vision is unique:
We bring 60 years of experience in three key areas needed to help
children and families thrive: emergency relief, long-term development,
and advocacy. And we bring all of our skills across many areas of
expertise to each community we work in, enabling us to care for
children’s physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Partnering with World Vision provides tangible ways to honor

God and put faith into action. By working, we can make a lasting
difference in the lives of children and families who are struggling to
overcome poverty. To find out more about how you can help, visit

About World Vision Resources

E nding gl o b a l po v ert y and injustice begins with education:
understanding the magnitude and causes of poverty, its impact on
human dignity, and our connection to those in need around the world.

World Vision Resources is the publishing ministry of World Vision.

World Vision Resources educates Christians about global poverty,
inspires them to respond, and equips them with innovative resources
to make a difference in the world.

For more information about our

resources, contact:
World Vision Resources
Mail Stop 321
P.O. Box 9716
Federal Way, WA 98063-9716
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