When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor ... and Yourself by Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert and Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.
Both books talk about helping the poor, the former through stories and research and the latter through the experience of one young woman living and ministering in Uganda. Kisses from Katie, on first impulse, makes me want to throw money at orphanages and any charity work in Africa, not to mention go volunteer at an orphanage. But is that what Katie Davis is suggesting? Is this the correct response? When Helping Hurts was actually a great intellectual balance to the emotions stirred up by Kisses from Katie, allowing me to see more clearly Katie's experience and perspectives on the best kind of help needed in her area of Uganda.
Giving and serving make us feel good but may not help, and may actually hurt those we want to help. Recently, I came across an article on on "voluntourism," and how some tour groups were offering stops at orphanages so people could play with orphans--you know, love on sweet, poor orphans and go home feeling good about yourself, and all that. In reality, many of the children weren't orphans--it was a racket. In cases where the children were orphans, they were as likely hurt by the loving people who came in and then left as encouraged. Haven't they experienced enough abandonment? Then what about the poor, hard-working American parents demoralized, stripped of their dignity, because some well-meaning group gives their kids toys the parents could never afford to buy them? Then there are the mission teams that go overseas to build schools while locals, who have skills and could use the money from the job, stand by watching the inexperienced Americans do the work.
This isn't to say that we shouldn't care, that we shouldn't help, that we shouldn't give, that the above-mentioned approaches are always wrong, but poverty is a complex issue. So is helping to alleviate poverty. We have good intentions, but so often we lack the long-term, holistic vision and practical skills needed to truly, lastingly help. It's not straightforward, quick, or easy, but then nothing good is, so that shouldn't be surprising. Alleviating poverty involves dealing with broken relationships (the relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation), changing mindsets, getting rid of our own god-complex, recognizing that we may need to step back and let trained locals do the work or give up time to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with people we'd rather hand money to and leave. And so much more. If you're interested in this topic, I highly recommend When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor ... and Yourself.
|This is me wearing the Elizabeth necklace made |
by a Ugandan woman named Elizabeth, whom
Katie Davis's ministry Amazima has helped train
to earn her own living. This is great because I think
this will be a long-lasting ministry, that
Elizabeth won't be out of a job and her American
market (which may not be her sole market, I don't
know) any time soon. But are there ways to make
people independent of a particular person
or missionary? Read When Helping Hurts to find out!
Have you ever spoken to an issue in your writing without meaning to and later realized that you'd done a poor, or a surprisingly good, job of it?
Have you ever been particularly impressed by, or horrified by, the way an author treated a subject that may have been an incidental theme in the book, as poverty was in mine?