Global network seeks to unite head and heart in charity work
Denver, Colorado, July 8, 2014 / 03:01
PovertyCure, a global organization that brings together like-minded charities, is working to change the dialogue about charitable aid while tackling global poverty.
“Our goal for PovertyCure is to … help promote and encourage new ways of thinking about the problem of poverty that are rooted in Christian tradition and rooted in the creative capacity of the person,” director Michael Matheson Miller told DAC.
PovertyCure seeks to help alleviate poverty by addressing humanity’s creativity and God-given dignity and is a project of the Acton Institute, a think tank focused on religion and freedom.
One of their recent projects is a six-part DVD series for colleges and churches that aims to challenge traditional ways of approaching humanitarian aid while emphasizing the person rather than the problem.
“I think part of what we need to strive for is not just to try to plan and socially organize our way out of poverty, but rather to unleash the creative capacity of the poor and prevent them from being excluded,” Matheson Miller said.
Over the past few decades, aid organizations have used the same model for foreign aid and development assistance. Matheson Miller said that although those involved have good intentions, we have inadvertently created a “poverty industry”.
“Not because people are bad, not because they have bad intentions and want to hurt the poor, but the incentive structure created this industry and when you have an industry, the goal is to stay in business.”
Those who have a “heart for the poor” and are moved to reach out and help those in need must also have a “mind for the poor” and consider whether their help is actually helping or hurting the recipients, a- he explained.
PovertyCure interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs for the DVD series, who discussed how harmful government and private aid in its current form can be to their local economies.
One respondent, a Kenyan businesswoman, described how the influx of second-hand clothes from the United States over the past 15 years has all but destroyed the Kenyan cotton market, wiping out cotton farms and shutting down textile factories.
Another man, a chicken farmer in Rwanda, recounted how a large egg donation from a well-meaning church in the United States bankrupted him by flooding the market with free produce.
The following year, the church moved its aid to another part of the world, leaving the town without locally produced eggs.
Another problem is that what has been done in the last 50 years in development is not charity, but humanitarianism, said Matheson Miller.
“Humanitarianism is a hollowed out, desecrated, secular form of Christian love. It has limited horizons (and) it stops at providing material comforts.”
Charity, Matheson Miller explained, is Christian love that seeks the good of another and promotes “human flourishing while keeping in mind the person’s eternal destiny”.
Humanitarianism, on the other hand, is only interested in material needs and seeks to satisfy them through social engineering.
In this light, “we tend to treat people as the object of our charity rather than the subject and protagonist of their development,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from Pope Francis when he was archbishop. from Buenos Aires.
This is evident in the fact that much of the aid is tied to population control, he said.
“Because you don’t see people as subjects and because you sometimes have a bad understanding of economics, you end up making pretty serious mistakes. You combine that with secular ideology and it’s a disaster; and the big disaster, of course, is population control.”
Rather than just ‘sign up’ to an organization that ties charity to population control because there’s ‘nothing else’ out there, Mattheson Miller says, we should create something that we can register without any moral reservations.
With an international network of over 100,000 people and over 300 organisations, PovertyCure believe they can help those involved in charity to discuss and develop a better way to approach poverty.
While the methods for each person and group may differ, PovertyCure says putting “the people at the center of our economic thinking” is the first step in the right direction.
Drawing heavily on the Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity and papal documents such as the Rerum Novarum, the network seeks to find truly effective ways to help the poor realize their creative potential.
Members of the network include groups that work in microfinance to provide small loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries as well as human rights groups that seek to extend private property rights and political freedom to poor.