Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Power of Community

A question that is often asked is if the rich have a duty to help those who are less fortunate. The answer to this question often varies, depending on individual attitudes towards philanthropy. It's all built around helping those who need help in their times of distress. Often, distress might not be the issue, but rather, the idea is being able to appreciate the greater good and blessing in helping someone solve a need they have. This weekend, I had started off having what began as a civil conversation with someone I was newly acquainted. A few minutes into the conversation, two individuals within close proximity asked why I was yelling. I didn't realize I was, but all of a sudden as the topic of discussion veered from general politics to inequality and poverty in Nigeria, my voice went several decibels up. When I was finally cautioned and lowered my voice, I realized that I felt tired just from talking about what seemed to me like a problem with no real solutions.

The idea that poor countries should be allowed to wallow in their misery is a dangerous one because at the end of the day, the West suffers when poverty goes unchecked in developing countries. Just like it is often said that when the West sneezes the whole world catches a cold, so also, when poverty is left unchecked the West pays a high price. Besides religious fanaticism, I am deeply convinced that acts of terrorism that befall the United States and a great number of Western states is a result of unchecked extreme poverty in developing countries. In the words of Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "You can never win a war against terror as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate - poverty disease and ignorance." Desperation leaves individuals feeling disempowered and lost, without viable options and choices. At least I can substantiate the last sentence because the times in my life when I have felt the least empowered have been times when I believed or felt I was without the ability to choose.

The lack of choice and the link to development is not lost on Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen whom I read extensively while studying for an advanced degree in international development. Sen has often stressed that extreme poverty limits the choices of individuals with the result that they feel hopeless. Hopelessness creates vulnerability and those who are vulnerable in my opinion are more likely to become potential recruits for acts of terrorism. While this connection between global terrorism and extreme poverty still remains unsubstantiated by scholars, it almost seems like a perfectly logical connection, one that take only a mild sprinkling of common sense and a critical eye to make.

Thus, I do not want to be all talk. I have a desire to be part of the problem of alleviating global poverty and this week, I will be traveling to Haiti, a country I became deeply acquainted with my senior year in college as I worked on an independent research paper that explored the origins of AIDS in Haiti. I will be traveling with a group of eleven people from my church and will be journaling extensively and look forward to sharing my travel diary on the blog upon my return. So, please keep me in your prayers and thoughts and if you would like to make a donation to support my trip please visit... http://www.gofundme.com/73mvdo. Your donations are tax deductible.