Generational Slums

Finding Hope and Resilience in Generational Slums

GFA World shared a powerful true story of Madin, a young man who, along with his family, left their impoverished rural village only to find themselves residing in a first-generation slum. This article sheds light on their journey, highlighting the challenges they faced and the unique aspects of generational slums. Despite the hardships, the residents of these impoverished neighborhoods demonstrate remarkable resilience and cultivate a strong sense of community.[1]

Madin, belonging to the lowest social class, endured a lifetime of exploitation and mistreatment from his affluent village neighbors. Overwhelmed by the abuse, he made the difficult decision to seek peace and improved prospects for his family. Recognizing that their village offered no respite, Madin moved his family to a bustling city, hoping to escape the shackles of social class. However, lacking connections, they found themselves settling in a large impoverished community within an overcrowded urban area, facing new challenges along the way.

Determined to create a better future, Madin and his wife, Ramana, settled into a small shanty within the community. During the day, their three children navigated the makeshift paths and vast garbage piles that characterized the area. While they escaped the contempt of their previous neighbors, their job prospects remained stagnant. Most men in the community engaged in backbreaking day labor for meager wages, while women predominantly worked as ragpickers.

Madin’s primary worry centered around the future of his children. Although he had managed to escape ridicule, the specter of poverty continued to haunt him. It seemed as though he and his children were destined to live as outcasts, inheriting a fate they had not chosen.

Unveiling the Realities of Generational Slums:

To comprehend life in these more permanent, identified slums, it is crucial to understand that residents not only survive but also build assets and invest in education and skills. Durable housing, often located closer to the city center, characterizes these impoverished communities. Within the confines of developing countries, the residents maintain a unique upper-class-poverty lifestyle. Legitimate businesses thrive in these generational slums.

In fact, in one city in South Asia, more than 80% of households in generational slums own televisions and small electrical appliances, indicative of their access to electricity and other public services. Cooking predominantly relies on kerosene stoves, marking a significant improvement compared to temporary neighborhoods where wood is the primary fuel source.

Moreover, the residents of generational slums possess a wide range of skills, including carpentry, plumbing, office work, telemarketing, and even law enforcement. This diverse mix of skilled and semi-skilled labor fosters an environment where residents can enhance their livelihoods. Paved streets and access to public transportation enable them to reach educational and employment centers, paving the way for personal growth. The thoroughfares bustle with various modes of transportation, particularly bicycles and motorbikes.

Chawls: A Fascinating Living Paradigm:

Chawls represent a distinctive aspect of life in permanent urban slums. These two- to four-story buildings consist of 10×12 single occupancy rooms arranged side by side on each floor, with a shared toilet and two exits on either side. Many chawls feature inner courtyards that connect the different levels.[2] Initially erected by owners of India’s urban textile mills, warehouses, and trading companies to house their employees, chawls have evolved into multipurpose buildings. The one-room apartments surrounding the inner courtyard are occupied by residents, while small shops owned by the disadvantaged neighborhoods occupy the outer perimeters of the building.

Despite the lack of privacy inherent in such living arrangements, a profound sense of community inevitably develops among the residents. These bonds often surpass those found in average American neighborhoods, whether high-rise apartments or housing developments. It is astonishing to discover that doctors, lawyers, and business owners choose to reside in these impoverished communities. In many cases, they live and work in the same building, exemplifying the symbiotic relationship between living and livelihood within these communities.

Madin’s journey serves as a powerful testament to the challenges faced by those residing in generational slums. Despite limited resources and numerous obstacles, the residents demonstrate an unwavering determination to carve out a brighter future for themselves and their families. Within these impoverished communities, unique living arrangements, such as the chawls, foster a deep sense of belonging and unity that transcends physical constraints.

It is within this context that GFA World’s slum ministry becomes even more impactful, offering hope, strength, and tangible support to transform the lives of slum dwellers. Through prayer, healthcare, education, vocational training, and more, GFA World pastors and Sisters of Compassion bring light to the darkness, empowering individuals and communities to break free from the cycle of poverty. By joining hands with GFA World’s slum ministry, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of those living in generational slums, amplifying their resilience and vibrant community spirit. Together, we can be agents of transformation and advocates of change.

Learn more about global slums

[1] “Treasure Unearthed in a Slum.” n.d. Gospel for Asia. Accessed June 14, 2023.
[2] “Chawls of Bombay—an Introduction | Sahapedia.” 2018. Sahapedia. 2018.