Chains of debt

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Aim: To understand how it feels for countries to be in debt.
You will need: Paper and pens (or blackboard and chalk), strips of coloured paper, stapler/glue.
Duration: 20 minutes

Many poor countries owe lots if money, from loans they borrowed a long time ago. It is very difficult for them to pay this money back, and the amount of interest added on keeps growing. Governments have to spend their money on debt repayments, rather than other important things the country needs like schools and hospitals. For many countries there seems to be no end in sight to the debt.

The imagery of chains is often used to represent debt. Think of words to express how it feels to be caught up in the 'chains of debt'. The group could call out words, or write them up on a blackboard or a piece of paper.

Here are some suggestions if they are needed:

  • Restricted
  • Frustrated
  • Angry
  • Upset
  • Caught up
  • Despairing
  • Trapped
  • Frightened

Make a paper chain to represent the chains of debt. Use strips of coloured paper (about 2cm wide, 20cm long). On each link write one of the different words about debt. Attach the links together with glue or staples.

Extra option

People could wear the chains to raise awareness of the problem of unpayable debt at an event in your community. Make leaflets to hand out about poor country debt, explaining why debt cancellation is needed.

You could take photos of your group wearing the 'chains of debt' post them on the website.