Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poverty II

Thanks for the feedback on my last post on poverty - it is something we all try not to think too much about, it is uncomfortable and disconcerting,  but I was encouraged by how many of you really do want to do the "right" thing.  Which brings me to this post...... what the heck is the "right" thing to do?

I have no idea.

Honestly I don't - I know step one for me was, like I said here, to figure out why I was giving/doing etc. to settle the question of motivation.  But that is when the tidal wave of the poor/hungry/hurting/persecuted world completely engulfs me.  I feel like a little house on the shore in Japan when that tsunami came at it and in minutes it was floated away and eventually broken to pieces and disintegrated.

Well doesn't that sound like fun!  NOT!

But the need, that which I know of or am even vaguely aware of, is SO great and SO complex and SO beyond my ability to fix.

Thank goodness.

Imagine if I felt I was so great I could fix it? Yikes...

So I could just shrug my shoulders and declare that nothing I do will really make any difference so why even try.  There are literally thousands of great (and not so great) organisations out there doing great work.  They don't need me or they only need my cheque. Good.for.them.

There is no doubt that giving financially to organisations is sometimes the only and/or best thing we can do.  I cannot go to Somalia right now and help but I can do some research and find out which organisations are getting the best resources to the people on the ground and I can give.  I should give.  I must give.

Sometimes though giving cash from my abundance is....... nice and necessary.....but empty and unfulfilling.  And I think sometimes it is dangerous as it leads us to believe we are doing the "right" thing.  And yet we are never putting action behind our cheque book.  Most people don't even research where their money is going.  It is important to find an organisation who gets things done on the frontline in a way that has integrity and that respects the local people.  That not only relieves a crisis but that also looks for ways to build capacity for the future either through skills training or infrastructure or education.

In her book "My Maasai Life" Robin Wiszowaty of the "Me to We" Foundation visits and critiques several so-called development projects in Kenya.  Of all the ones she visits, the one being run by the Mama's, designed by the Mama's with the rules made by the Mama's was the most successful.  Yes, it took outside money, but the power and control were give to the local women.  So many other projects designed by well intentioned western donors/funders are so misguided about how they will be sustained when the westerners go home....donor money wasted..... local people let down and abandoned.  A sad tale oft repeated in Africa and the third world.

There are, of course, many ways to get involved in making a difference.  Most large NGO's working overseas have programs for short or long-term trips. (In the coming weeks I will post a cautionary tale about short-term trips from a fellow blogger who makes some excellent points)  If you have a skill that could benefit a community then that is a place to start.  I know my Dentist goes to south and central america to do dental care.  There are also local Boards of overseas NGO's you could sit on and fundraise for.  I saw the Union Gospel Mission Mobile Van pull in to the parking lot at my office late the other night - I am sure they could use some help. There are so many ways if you start looking. 

I am looking for a place of action for myself.  In the meantime I use the mighty chequebook and my prayers of petition on behalf of those in poverty and suffering.

I'd love to know places/organisations you are involved in and I can highlight them here.  I'll start with these links:

African Enterprise Canada I can vouch for this one..... My Dad has worked for them for 31 years and they make a real difference on the ground all over Africa.  You can participate here (in Canada) or there (in Africa).
Doctors without Borders or MSF - a nobel winning organisation working on the frontlines in some tough places.
Room to Read My cousin Caileen in Australia has joined this worthy organisation.
Union Gospel Mission Local and impactful - I have several friends who work there - check them out.

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

1 comment:

  1. Another great post on such an important issue. Writing a cheque is the only choice in some cases. I do believe though that small local actions contribute to a greater good overall and can bring awareness...whether it's making special snack bags for the local food back to distribute to children (I've been doing this with my own and my son's classes for years), making scarves to hand out to shelters in the winter or participate in local fundraisers or walks like the Steveston walk to support a community in Japan after the tsunami.
    As parents of children in a privileged society, I think we have a responsibility to our children to teach the importance of "doing".