"If you are reading this book, you are probably not poor. You may feel poor compared to your friends and neighbors, but in the perspective of the world, you are not poor.

"It is not just that the relatively modest cost of this book would exceed a poor person's income for a week; it is that the poor lack access to information. They do not have bookstores or libraries. Most cannot read. Those who go to school often leave at an early age to help support the family. And many suffer from impaired vision because they lack simple nutrients in their diets or suffer a small infection that goes untreated.

"Being poor, it turns out, is much more complicated than lack of money. Poverty runs deep into the family and community, robbing individuals and whole societies of life-saving information, health care, food, and water. Poverty robs individuals not only of security and health, but also dignity. A poor person is often too busy surviving the present to spend much time thinking about the future. And yet, the poor do have dreams. Voices of the Poor, a series of books created by the World Bank, quotes poor people whose hopes and dreams — especially for their children — are much like ours.

"Fixing poverty isn't easy either. So many have tried in so many ways that the average person views poverty as an intractable condition. Some even like to quote the words of Jesus, 'You will always have the poor among you. . .', as evidence that poverty is simply part of the human condition.

"But just as knowledge is power to the poor, it is also power to those of us who are relatively rich. We can make a difference, but we have to understand more. We need to be smarter about poverty. . . .

"Can we conquer poverty? Yes and no. We can help individuals and groups find their way out of poverty, although development experts emphasize that the process must be collaborative.

"But the bigger picture is more challenging. How much are those of us who are relatively rich willing to sacrifice to help those who are extremely poor? How unselfish can we really be as societies? Are we willing to be less rich and perhaps less powerful in order to help people we don't know become less poor and less powerless?

"Poverty is not only an economic problem, but also a cultural and spiritual challenge. It takes not just money to defeat poverty, it takes moral will and personal sacrifice.

"If you are reading this book, you are one of the people in the world who can make a difference. It is up to you whether you accept that fact as a responsibility and embrace it as a challenge."