Sunday, March 18, 2012

When Helping Hurts

I just finished reading an incredible book called When Helping Hurts.

(I know!  I can't believe I had time to read an entire book while in Haiti either!)

The premise of the book is "how to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself".  The book revealed the painful truth about the poor worldwide and discussed strategies for moving through the relief, rehabilitation and development stages.

Basically, we need to facilitate the restoration of integrity in the poor in order to see a change in the paternalism mentality.

Poverty alleviation is extremely complex in any country, but the rule of thumb is avoid all costs.  Do not do things for people that they can do for themselves.  Many organizations that are "helping Haiti" are actually hurting the people by creating dependency and contributing to the vicious circle of handouts.

Check out this equation from the book:

   Material Definition of Poverty
+ God-complexes of Materially Non-Poor
+ Feelings of Inferiority of Materially Poor
Harm to Both Materially Poor and Non-Poor

Here is what the authors think the overall goal should be for material poverty alleviation:

Working to reconcile the four foundational relationships (with self, others, God and all of creation) so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.

Are you sleeping yet?  These things get me pumped up!

Here is the last thing I'll share with you.  The story of elephant and mouse as told by an African woman:

Elephant and Mouse were best friends.  One day Elephant said, “Mouse, let’s have a party!”  Animals gathered from far and near.  They ate.  They sang.  And they danced.  And nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant.  After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed, “Mouse, did you ever go to a better party?  What a blast!”  But Mouse did not answer.  “Mouse, where are you?” Elephant called.  He looked around for his friend, and then shrank back in horror.  There at Elephant’s feet lay Mouse.  His little body was ground into the dirt.  He had been smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant.  “Sometimes, that is what it is like to do mission work with you Americans,” the African storyteller commented.  “It is like dancing with an Elephant."

My focus has always been on working alongside the people and this book emphasized just that.  I love the validation!

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