When Helping Hurts: Part 4

“What is wrong will come out soon enough…”

Chapter 5 of “When Helping Hurts” was a short chapter.  The focus was on trying to find that assets those in poverty bring to the table.  Poor doesn’t mean “no money”. Most of the time, money isn’t the real solution to their problem anyway (as we have discussed in earlier posts). There were some wonderful assessment tools to use in this chapter.

We often tend to think of poor people as not having gifts.  That is usually NOT the case.  Just because people aren’t rich doesn’t mean they can’t do anything.  Remember, money doesn’t equate to worth.

Here are some great highlights from this chapter:

  • Many Christian community-development experts have discovered the benefits of using “asset-based community development (ABCD) as they seek to foster reconciliation of people’s relationships with God, self, other, and creation.
  • ABCD put the emphasis on what materially poor people already have and asks them to consider from the outset, “What is right with you?  What gifts has God-given you that you can use to improve your life and that of your neighbors? How can the individuals and organizations in your community work together to improve your community?”
  • Pouring in outside resources is not sustainable and only exacerbates the feelings of helplessness and inferiority that limits low-income people from being better stewards of their God-given talents and resources.
  • Asset-based approaches to poverty alleviation should not be seen as denying the fact that low-income people – like all of us – have glaring needs.
  • What is wrong will come out soon enough; but by starting with what is right, we can change the dynamics that have marred the self-image of low-income people and that have created a sense of superiority in ourselves.
  • It is crucial that such outside resources do not undermine the willingness of the ability of the poor individual or community to be stewards of their own gifts and resources.
  • We must as two question when considering bringing in outside resources: (1) Is it too much? (2) Is it too early?
  • Poverty alleviation is about reconciling people’s relationships, not about putting bandages over particular manifestations fo the underlying brokenness.
  • Jesus created, sustains, and is redeeming assets in poor communities.  As the body of Christ, the church should seek to do the same.
  • The North American need for speed undermines the slow process for lasting and effective long-run development.
  • We need to look for ways to give money that builds up local organizations and that truly empowers the poor.
  • Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) is a mind-set and an associated set of tools which uses a variety of group-based exercises to engage and energize community members in thinking about their community’s history, assets, survival strategies, and goals.
  • Appreciative Inquiry (AI) focuses on what is right and good in a community’s past as a means of creating a more positive future.
  • The AI approach to ABCD asks poor individuals and communities to consider the questions (1) What gives life to the community? (2) What might be? (3) What should be? (4) What is working?

When dealing with poverty alleviation, we often gravitate to what’s wrong and not what’s right.  That simple shift in thinking will lead you to very different answers.  I challenge you the next time you see someone in obvious poverty, ask yourself “What gifts do they have?”

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