Archive for the category “When helping hurts”

Profiting from a child’s illiteracy

Nicholas KristofNicholas D. Kristof writes at the New York Times:

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people [in Appalachia] don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month. … That is a burden on taxpayers, of course, but it can be even worse for children whose families have a huge stake in their failing in school. Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole — and that’s the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty.

There’s no doubt that some families with seriously disabled children receive a lifeline from S.S.I. But the bottom line is that we shouldn’t try to fight poverty with a program that sometimes perpetuates it.

Read the full text of this excellent post by clicking here.
Essential reading: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself

Enabling the oppressed to become the oppressors

Chris Horst writes at Christians for a Sustainable Economy:

“Moonshine or the Kids?” Nicholas Kristof, writer for the New York Times, stimulated much uneasiness with this question in his recent column on global poverty. He said:

There’s an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It’s a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous: It’s that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.

Kristof went on to cite some clear data to highlight this disturbing “ugly secret.” At the same time I read this article, I heard a radio report about the rising prices of vodka in Russia. In the report, they interviewed an unemployed man who was frustrated by the rising prices. He said, “I just so desperately need to find a job so I can afford to buy more vodka.” The comment stuck with me. We work in Russia and I wondered if this man had ever attempted to start a business through HOPE to “grow his family’s income.”

… I’m more convinced than ever that helping people materially is not enough. Helping is enabling. My friend, Dr. Rob Gailey, articulated it more clearly. He said that “economic development is about increasing people’s choices.” If we help an alcoholic poor person—and there is no heart change—we will simply enable him to buy higher qualities and quantities of alcohol. Without heart change, as the BBC reported, helping families in India might actually be enabling them to perform sex-selection abortions, a problem which “prosperity is actually aggravating.”

In a sense, we could be enabling the oppressed to become the oppressors if we do not speak to more than business decisions. True change happens when we promote biblical values, boldly communicating the truth of the Gospel. Income growth is important, but it is only when hearts and minds are transformed that we will we see true change happen.

Chris also offers a compelling video about Mama Flores, a salon owner in Congo who has trained and employed over 15 orphans through her business success. To watch that video, click here.

I was hungry and you … called your Congressman

Kristin Rudolph writes at juicyecumenism.com:

There is no debate that Christians are called to care for the poor and hungry. When Jesus said “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” he made it clear that caring for those in need is not optional. How we do so, however, is a more contentious issue. For some, obeying this command means forming a “Circle of Protection” around federal government entitlement programs.

Since the federal budget debate began to heat up in the spring and summer of 2011, a group of religious activists formed a “Circle of Protection” with the purpose of lobbying President Obama and Congress to avoid cutting funding for welfare programs. Recently, Bread for the World president David Beckmann spoke to a group of “emergent Christians” about “changing the politics of hunger.” On June 20, at small gathering of Washington, D.C. based “emergent Christians,” he discussed how Christians can end world hunger by influencing “the most powerful institution in the world:” the United States government.

Beckmann explained his view that Christians ought to care for the needy in their community, but also they should make sure the government is “leading” the effort to solve poverty and hunger. To accomplish this, he stressed the importance of contacting representatives in Congress and telling them to protect entitlement programs. It is not enough, he claimed, for churches and local institutions to address these needs. He cited statistics that found if Congress made the proposed cuts to the SNAP program (food stamps), every church in the US would have to provide $50,000 each year to “fill the gap.” Beckmann stated: “it’s just not possible.”

There is evidence, however, that the growth of government programs crowds out private charitable giving.

Read the rest here.

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