My world view has skewed. I was watching (with tears in my eyes) the story of 3 little kids in this impoverished country. The little boy was about 10 or 12 and had 2 little sisters. Every day, they had to walk 2 miles to get water. The path has snakes that can kill you if they bite you, so the little boy goes in front to make sure the path is safe for his sisters. All the kids are sick, the water is not really safe to drink. None of the kids has had anything to eat all day. “Send money! for $19.00/month, you can send $190 worth of food and medicine to save these children!” If you don’t get out your checkbook right away, they will guilt you some more. Food for the Poor will give 95% of the donations to the poor and save so many lives!
I didn’t get out my checkbook. I didn’t do a money order. I didn’t go on line to the site and pledge my undying support. I didn’t adopt these poor kids. I am a HORRIBLE person.
What I was thinking was this: If you give them food and medicine, are they any less poor? They are alive but dependent. What happens when the shipment of food or medicine is derailed or delayed? What happens if this charity goes under? What happens if the economy bottoms out and donors are harder to find? They’re still poor. They are still desperate. We just don’t feel guilty for having water and food and jobs and clothing and shelter any more.
What would happen if we sent a pair of goats or sheep or whatever indigenous food-type animal there–something that wouldn’t cost much to raise and would still be able to feed these people? What would happen if they were taught to make flamboyant t-shirts to sell to rich Americans? They could make as many or as few as they wanted. What if we investigated their folklore on medicinal plants and learned how they survived up to that point? Their ancestors had a reason for settling in that place. Has it changed so much that it no longer supports that community? Do they need to relocate (preferably closer to the water)? Do they just go get water and sit and wait in their inadequate housing to die? I can’t believe they would. Could they make products out of the surrounding materials that they could sell? Could they start farming crops that grow in that environment? Don’t they have a shaman or wise person in the village that can teach the children? Since they obviously do not have contact with modern societies, why would they need a stereotypical school?
Why is it our duty to “save” these people? What if our idea of salvation is their idea of obliteration of their culture and their way of life?
Could we survive without TV’s, computers, internet, cars, fast food? If we were suddenly plunged into a life like that, would these people who live without these critical objects show us how to live on nothing? If I was living like them, I would point and laugh and whisper, “City Folk..,” but then I’d help them anyway. How can we help these unfortunates if we don’t change their living conditions? How do we make them Not Poor?
Instead of just sending donations, can we send people to improve their living conditions? Doctors without Borders brings health care to people in need, but then they leave. Do they train people to take their places? Do they teach people how to MAKE the medicines and how to treat infections?
Once again, these desperately poor people didn’t just appear. Their ancestors survived there. Why can’t they? What would it take to make them self sufficient? You can’t just throw money at them and change their fates!
So I am a HORRIBLE person. I want to fix the cause, not just treat the symptom.