29 January 2011

Helping Others is Not as Easy as Donated Pie - Kami Rice

If you click on the link above to the page "on poverty" and you'll see an essay I wrote about how our experiences here have changed the way we view the big sweeping concept of poverty. And strongly recommends the book "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. (it's also included in our self-published book Goodness, Grace and Restoration - but that's another story)

A friend just directed me to to another thoughtfully worded essay on Burnside Writers Collective that is born out of the author's experiences with African poverty and thoughts on the book "When Helping Hurts" .... it always feel like a deep encouraging breath when people are able to articulate what we are also feeling, living, trying to say.

I thought I'd share a bit with you... but then you'll have to head over there to read the whole thing yourself. I bet you'll want to.

Helping Others is Not as Easy as Donated Pie
Featured, Social Justice — By Kami L. Rice on January 25, 2011 at 6:54 am

Halfway through the four months I spent in Africa a couple years ago, I read a statement that now feels like a line in the sand. It went something like this: No entrepreneur can compete against donated goods. The passage went on to describe the plight of a tailor in an economically depressed town somewhere in Africa whose business was destroyed by the arrival of donated clothing from the States.
Whether these clothes were given away or sold for cheap, he couldn’t compete with them. After all, he had supplies to purchase, employees to pay, and a time investment in each of his products. Eventually, the tailor was put out of business because of outsiders’ oh-so-generous “help” for his community. Now the tailor and his employees were left without a viable way to earn a living as his town’s economy became more dependent on hand-outs.
I read this in Uganda, country number three of the five I was visiting during my sojourn. Because I had come to Africa as a writer, covering stories for mission and humanitarian organizations, I was gifted with time for asking lots of questions. I was there to listen, not to fix things. And I’d already listened to stories that were reorienting my ideas of what helping really looks like. Reading a tailor’s sad tale while physically in Africa interacting with other people whose dignity and humanity and made-in-the-image-of-God-ness has been too-often overlooked while we “help” them cemented a shift in my perspective on helping.


  1. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for this. Going to pass it along.


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