My Malawi – Natalie’s Story: http://youtu.be/fTJ5N7vl7Hc
I’ve shared this video before, but I’ll share it again. Except this time I’ll make some comments.
1. While such endeavours are commendable and noteworthy, and while they may ease ‘survival’ for the recipients / beneficiaries in what is a tough environment, except for the initiative of giving people tools (land, boreholes, seeds, watering cans) to become self-sufficient, such endeavours are often not sustainable. Because they follow the same dysfunctional pattern: go into the poverty stricken country, visit schools, donate goods, food etc, visit poor communities, Donate. Donate donate… feel bad about their plight, go back home enlightened, raise awareness, and if you are lucky another team many months later goes back, and repeats the cycle. There’s little or no attempt to tackle the root causes of the inequality, poverty and hardship. Charities have been doing this kind of thing in Malawi for over 40 years! With little real tangible substantial progress that can transform communities to be self-sufficient. I’m certainly not the only one who thinks a different approach is way overdue.
2. Which brings me to my next point: You can raise money to buy porridge mixtures for poor children in schools, and that’s OK. You can donate worn clothes to rural communities, and that’s okay too. You can donate books and desks, and that’s excellent – well done you!
But is it enough?
Can you honestly say thats it is sustainable?
In my view, what is a much better strategy is to train communities and provide equipment for them to not only be able to manufacture their own porridge mix, package it and sell it at a price people can afford (yes – some children, orphans and those severely impoverished will be assisted. It may be the case that the Malawi government should pay for such a project as Mary’s Meals in schools across Malawi) but also set up shop and sell the clothes, books, etc they receive in donations. It will create jobs, will end the culture of dependency (instead of waiting for the ‘white man saviour’, they would have to work for their income) and will mean people in villages begin to be trained for specific roles. I’ll give you another example. In the video above, we are shown students ( without pens and paper) in a classroom without desks. While its fair to say that it could be a while for paper recycling ♻ machinery to be bought and installed in a factory in the nearest district to that school (considering Malawi has a relatively small power network), what about the desks? What is stopping the establishment of a workshop to teach carpentry and other vocations, so that the desks are made closer to home? All they’ll need is varnish, planks of wood, a few saws (or chain saws -which can be donated or procured by the government) and nails. And a few artisans. I have a friend in Lilongwe who several years ago hired a carpenter, and for a budget of K30,000 (~US$66) got him to produce a piece which was being sold for K150,000 in the shops.