RE-THINKING POVERTY

Different people have a different understanding of what poverty is: lack of basic needs and necessities to survive, poverty of the mind- on grounds of how they think about themselves and lack of knowledge and understanding of what’s around them, living in the slum etc. All seem similar but quite different. On the other hand, the same applies to the solutions. How do we end poverty, make it history? Different approaches, strategies and ideas exist. The good news is, a significant number of people are really trying to create change and solutions to poverty. The bad news is, though some have succeeded, most have failed. Lasting change is a process and the answers are deeply rooted in those most affected. That is why building relationship[s and involving the communities we work in is important. Community Organizing! To end poverty, we must re-think it, ask difficult questions on why it exists and  be willing to work on the root causes . Natalie Finstad, co-founded of Tatua Kenya talks about community as the path to the future and as a way to developing sustainable and just solutions to poverty  on Natalie’s TEDex

How can we begin to examine the identities that we are assigning to people based on where they come from, their neighbourhoods etc?

How do we begin to engage in meaningful relationships with others?

Liz Njeri- Tatua Kenya community manager

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In Memoriam: Katherine Mcquade-Toig

What we have done for ourselves alone die with us; what we have done for others and the world remains…immortal.Tatua and the world have lost a great woman in the past week, beautiful both inside and out. Last year, a time like this, Tatua Kenya had the honour of hosting Katherine Mcquade-Toig. She began a blog  http://iseeafrica2013.blogspot.com/ to capture her experience. She wanted to run a campaign on health here in Kenya and had her heart out for the Community Health Workers (CHWs)in the slums. Here’s an excerpt from her blog, that challenges all of us to do better. Even in her passing on, she will continue to challenge us with the passion she had in creating a just world. Continue reading “In Memoriam: Katherine Mcquade-Toig”

BEYOND CHARITY….

I am not an all day, 7 days a week reader thus very picky when it comes to what I read. Dr. John M. Perkins is one of the few writers that I think have so much wisdom gained from decades of experience in communities. In beyond charity, he asks and answers a few questions. This one in particular, I want to share;

How do we affirm the dignity of people, motivate them and help them take responsibility for their own lives?  By beginning with the people’s felt needs we establish a relationship and a trust, which then enables us to move to deeper issues of development.  This idea of beginning with people’s felt need is what is called the felt need concept.  It is summed up in a Chinese poem…

Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have:
But of the best leaders

When their task is done
The people will remark

“We have done it ourselves.”

Some however sometimes go in like this…( in communities)

Go to the people with an agenda
Observe the people (maybe)
Tell them what to do
Enable, manipulate and take advantage of them
Even lie to them
Start with what they don’t know
Tell them what you think they should know
But the worst of leaders

will do things TO the community
instead of WITH the community
The people will ask

“What have they done to us?”

Whenever, I go through this poem, I see it in a different light. We need to affirm people’s dignity and break down the wall of distrust–before we talk to them about who we are or anything about ourselves.It’s easy for some of us to come into a situation with all the answers…because although we would never want to admit it…we see ourselves as smarter, more educated, more experienced, the list is endless.  We often think we know what is best for a community.  We force our opinions, thoughts, ideas, etc on a community. When in fact, we do more harm to the community than help.  The community isn’t transforming or coming together, but being torn apart instead. I know I don’t have all the answers and I am absolutely okay with it. In order to become a great leader you must realize that you are always a learner….are you willing to learn?

Liz Njeri- Tatua Kenya Community Organizer.

Mission as a way of being every day

Natalie Finstad, a Co-Founder of Tatua Kenya shares her take in aid and mission. She not only has a vast experience in justice work but is also playing a vital role in ensuring more people are involved in the new way of doing mission- as she talks about in this post as well as teaching them how to do it.

“Tatua Kenya began as a collective response to the way mission and aid were being done in the world. At its inception, I couldn’t point to exactly what was the problem but I did know a few things that bothered me.

  • Mission was typically short-sighted and didn’t think through the long-term challenges.
  • Mission didn’t engage local voices or honor their contribution.

Overtime however, I began to become increasingly frustrated with the one-sided nature of mission, meaning that for the most part mission efforts were about the “other person” or “other country’ changing, not us. This association of mission likely comes from the church’s tendency to use mission to describe the work it does with the outside world. Churches send out groups on mission trips to heal the sick, feed the hungry, build houses for the poor or work at a local food bank. Participants sign up to “make a difference” or “help the less-fortunate.” However, after the fact, many participants on mission trips will often remark, “I thought I was going to help them but I realized that they helped me more. That trip changed me.” While this sentiment sounds nice, I have always doubted the weight of the words.

How really were they helped by the poor people who received their new house? Was it in the welcoming they received or the view of a simpler life? If so, it appears, in most cases that the help they received didn’t go very far because few people who go on mission trips come back and change their lives – they might give a little more to the church or share about the plight of poor children in a faraway land but rarely do they make the sort of changes that could bring about a new kind of world, locally or globally.

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Natalie at the Tatua 2014 Global gathering.

In the time I worked at Tatua I began to understand mission as a, by definition, two-sided change. Mission was the encounter with another which changed the way you saw yourself, saw the world and therefore, the way you lived. One example for me is coffee, before I went to Kenya I never really thought about fair-trade coffee products. I knew it existed but I assumed it to be a fad that would fade away in the near future. However, in Kenya I met people who grew coffee, I saw places coffee was grown and the conditions under which it was farmed. I visited homes of people who were, quite literally, breaking their back to grow coffee and living in poverty. This experience has motivated me to begin to talk to church’s about only serving fair-trade coffee at church, out of a commitment to really love our neighbor. .I don’t expect this will be easy, it will be hard enough for me to commit to spend the extra few dollars every time I buy coffee as an individual but we have to be willing to make changes that will actually lead to a just world.

The mission of the church is not to fix the world, it’s to engage with the world in a way that leads to the emergence of a sacred way of life. This sacred way of life means that we honor all of us who inhabit the world, and that we are willing to change our everyday lives to honor one another. Mission isn’t a trip or a project or a theory – it’s a way of being every day. This type of life requires deep relationships and communities that support us in living differently. I believe the Christian Church has the power to nurture both those relationships and communities. Now that I’ve left Tatua Kenya I’m working with programs in the church to design and strengthen these type of communities and relationships. In doing so, I hope to see an expansion in the US of people that know what it means to engage with the world for the purpose of its and our own continual transformation.