I recently did a guest post over at A Life Overseas about the dangers of giving things out for free. When we give things out for free we are usually making poverty worse. Check out the post and let me know what you think.
Terry currently serves as Coordinator of the Global CHE Network and as Vice President of the Alliance for Transformational Ministry. He provides leadership to a growing movement, equipping and mobilizing Christians to work together for effective Community Health Evangelism (CHE) ministries in rural poor communities and urban slums around the world.After a decade of service in the Philippines, Terry pioneered for Medical Ambassadors in 9 countries in Southeast Asia, working together with partners to establish CHE ministries in more than 400 communities. Later as International Coordinator he guided the expansion of a growing movement that now involves more than 500 organizations serving more than 4000 communities in 118 countries.
Below are my notes from his talk entitled, “Helping Without Hurting.”
Keys to helping without hurting:
Dignity | Integration | Local Ownership | People Before Projects | Multiplication
Dignity – Recovery of our identity and vocation
- We are all people made in the image of God.
- We are all stewards of resources, not victims of circumstances.
- Feeling like a victim creates hopelessness, passivity, and fatalistic thinking
- If we are going to alleviate poverty, we have to see everyone as stewards made in God’s image.
- When we go with the intention of fixing people:
- For the people we are fixing, we are reinforcing a victim mentality.
- If we think we are going to do the fixing, we are reinforcing our own god-complex.
- Community health workers must see beyond the need
- Different kinds of relationships between the poor and non-poor:
- The cow and the milker
- The horse and the rider
- Mutually transforming – two oxen yoked equally together
Integration – working across the disciplines
- Good health is harmony with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.
- Complex problems require integrated solutions
- Solutions are not just within the disciplines, they are across them.
- The western education system teaches us there are one-dimensional solutions to every problem.
- Integrated solutions require multi-disciplined approaches.
- Integration begins with me. Following jesus requires complete obedience to everything he commanded.
- We are not calling for simple solutions, we are calling for greater commitment.
- In the Philippines the government had been trying for 20 years to convince people to use latrines with little luck (3% compliance). A government official explained a common belief in the area: evil spirits live in human waste and in dark corners. When you build a latrine, you were basically building a house for the evil spirits to live in. No wonder no one wanted to go in there! After a few months of integrated community development (following the CHE model), there was a significant difference in the latrines. Now they were maintained well and there were even landscaped paths to each one. The same government official explained that just after a few months they were experience 100% compliance and the whole community was healthier. This problem would still exist without integrated solutions that were multi-disciplined. It was a physical problem with a spiritual root.
Local Ownership – Locals are subjects rather than objects of development.
- Sustainable programs are owned by the people and built on local initiative.
- Ownership in demonstrated through volunteerism and strengthened through capacity building.
- Communities should be guiding their own development process.
People before projects – Building capacity instead of delivering services.
Multiplication – Making movements rather than managing projects.
- We have to go beyond sustainable.
- Focus on simple and transferable concepts.
- Maximize local resources.
- Solutions should be passed along from neighbor to neighbor.
Some ways to measure this kind of development work:
- Shared vision – the community sees a better future and has hope it can be achieved.
- Leadership – Godly Christian leaders are equipped and position to lead.
- Ownership – People are taking responsibility for their own health.
- Cooperation – People are united and working together for the common good.
- Volunteers – Significant numbers of people are taking initiative and acting sacrificially to meet the legitimate needs of others.
- Dignity – People have recovered their identify as made in the image of God.
I heard this story during the 2013 IWMC. It’s a great story for people who are preparing to go on a short-term missions trip. It’s actually a great story for anyone involved with cross-cultural ministry at all.
There was once a monkey who lived safe and sound on an island with his family. He lived there for years, had plenty of bananas, and the weather was usually nice. The monkey lived near a beautiful river on the middle of the island. One day, he saw a fish struggling in the river. The fish was caught on a rock in the running water. The monkey, at great risk to himself, climbed out on a tree branch and pulled the fish out of the water. He carried the fish to a safe place far away from the rushing river and laid him on the ground. The fish seemed very excited about his new found safety. He flopped around for a while showing much gratitude for the monkey’s selfless deed. It was only natural that after a little bit the fish began to fall asleep; after all, he had had a very rough day. The monkey walked away quietly so as not to disturb the fish after his near-death trial.
Some things to note:
- The monkey was courageous, sacrificial, and acted out of compassion.
- The monkey truly wanted to help the fish.
- The fish had no say in the relief he received.
- The monkey left before realizing what he had actually done.
Some questions to ask if you are telling this story in a group setting:
- What did the monkey assume about the fish?
- How did the fish feel about receiving ‘help’ from the monkey?
- What advice do we have for the monkey if he wants to help out in the future?
- Does this apply to us?
For the last 20+ years missions and charity work has been mostly motivated by what makes us feel good as the giver. Unfortunately, after years of this we’ve expended an absurd amount energy, money, and thought without accomplishing much in the realm of moving communities beyond poverty… but we definitely feel good about it.
Maybe what feels good to us is actually cuasing apathy and disinterest among the people we are trying to help. It’s holding them back from owning their own communities and being the change they want to see. What’s the point? If I work hard I can save money and paint my own house. If I do nothing but sit around and wait and look poor, some organization will come and paint my house for me.
Robert Lupton says it well in his book, Compassion Justice, and the Christian Life.
Doing for a community what it is capable of doing for itself is charity at its worst.
The focus has to be on community members seeing themselves as the solution, not some outside program.
Without teaching capability and responsibility all the money and good intentions in the world won’t end poverty.
If you got in this world of international aid to feel good, relief and handouts are the way to go. If you got into this because you truly want to end poverty, handouts simply aren’t an option.