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By Anna

Haiti has long been called “The Republic of NGOs” because more than 3,000 Non-Governmental Organizations operate in Haiti, according to the United States Institute of Peace.

Before (and after) the January earthquake, people criticized the number of NGOs and UN workers involved in Haiti’s well being. One blogger called them the “Neo-imperialists,” and another “invaders.” Three thousand organizations in one country is a lot too, but my critique is not in the number it’s in the activity of the number.

How many of these NGOs are infusing local growth and stability and how many are going so far as to capitalize on Haiti’s poverty? If NGOs are not involved in training local leaders, to provide jobs and economic growth they should rethink their mission.

A friend of mine this week asked me if I thought all these NGOs were exploiting Haitians because of all the excessive advertising for donating to Haiti now. I think it is a possibility, which is why it’s important to know an organization well before donating. Yes, Haiti needs our help and if an NGO has long been established in Haiti (which 3,000 have) they probably do need money right now. But texting 90999 to The Red Cross isn’t making much of a dent in Haiti’s recovery.

The solution for Haiti isn’t more money and more NGOs, the solution should be within Haiti. The United States Government and its NGOs haven’t found a solution for poverty here, so how will they manage to solve Haiti’s problems?

Reporter Marcela Valente said a solution could be found in mutual cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If the United States urged more government solutions in Haiti, their long-term future could be more stable, but resources are limited on the island and water is now their greatest need.

The point is Haiti has always needed economic help and photos of post-earthquake kids and bodies is meant to make people aware of the situation they are now in, not to make anyone feel guilty for not texting or not going down to move concrete. So be wary of the point of NGO photos and calls for donations.

By Anna

Ludwig_Bemelmans_-_Madeline_In_Bed_os_14x18The population of the earth is 6.8 billion, half are urbanites and more than one sixth are illiterate. The belief in the supernatural and unknown world dominates the majority of the 6.8 billion of us, and we can’t figure it out, as evidenced by the 11,500 organized religions in the world as well as the 40,000 differing denominations within Christianity alone.

We fight to the death about something we can’t prove, and refuse to address what we do know exists: poverty, displacement, natural disasters, and homelessness. Where I am in relation to the supernatural differs from each other human being, and when governments can’t agree on how to deal with their issues of self-inflicted oppression on their own citizens, individuals could make something happen.

For example, anywhere from 16 to 100 million children across seven continents go to sleep each night and wake up each morning with no parents. Though they cannot all be adopted because of government regulations, processes and prices of each orphan’s head, if every 20th family in the United States adopted one child, the word orphan would become something of the past. But we don’t even know how many orphans exist in the world because famililessness isn’t a priority and probably never will be. The very fact that we have orphanages to keep all these children is discouraging. So many children are without homes and without people who want to give homes that we had to build houses to keep them.

Global change for the homeless and oppressed is unlikely, but individual agency to do what is right with or without an urgency of religion or supernatural belief is possible. That is why I write this column each week and why I seek out truth through what I believe: in the inherent goodness that does exist in at least some small part in each of us.

Facts according to the Global Christian Forum, 2008.

By Anna

he Buda Reformed Church looking pretty affluent in Budapest, Hungary

he Buda Reformed Church looking pretty affluent in Budapest, Hungary

As a cross-cultural missions minor at Bethel University, I have yet to read one book or one essay about ministering to the affluent society. When it comes to missions in Budapest, one has to recognize that this city loved God for hundreds of years, but has recently rejected any idea of God because it felt like he rejected them (WWII and Soviet occupation).

The most I’ve ever learned about living among an affluent people has been from Solomon’s Porch. If I had to guess as to why I can’t find any books about this or know many missionaries in affluent countries it would be because 1. Money = greed 2. Ministry to the poor is tangible and easier—short-term mission teams can come in, help and leave with no extended commitment 3. It takes more thought, intellect and longer commitment than most people are willing (How do we reach the deepest needs of a person’s heart when the person feel no real needs?)

My parents always taught me that no matter where you were in the world you were on a “mission field” to borrow the Evangelistic Christian term, and to this day I believe it. But I was confused by what I had been learning in my minor. Shouldn’t I dedicate my life to the poor? My interpretation of “The Rich Young Ruler” in Matthew 19 was always literal. Sell everything you have and give it to those in need. Last year I heard an interpretation that makes just as much if not more sense: the story is not about money, but about what keeps us from God. How is an affluent society going to listen to one who judges and points the finger at their affluence?

No matter how little or how much we have, material distracts. I have a lot no matter how little I have.

By Anna

Karen Chapple and Michael Tietz, professors at the University of California, Berkeley, give eight causes of inner city poverty:95-theses

  1. Economic Shifts-often seen when manufacturing plants close or increase their robotics, resulting in loss of jobs
  2. Inadequate Human Capital-possibly no higher education, poor, or no education or no set skills
  3. Racial and Gender Discrimination
  4. Cultural Interaction-people emulate the culture around them, reacting to the agenda set by that culture. Also, middle class (most often white) culture usually sets itself apart from a diverse neighborhood because of a lack of understanding of culture
  5. Spatial Mismatch-segregation of classes that results in separation of workers and jobs
  6. Migration—of middle class to suburbs and middle/upper classes to areas in the United States. Also, push (crime, education) and pull (resources) factors of certain neighborhoods.
  7. Endogenous Growth Deficit—low access to capital because of a lack of businesses
  8. Consequences of Public Policy-usually intended to alleviate stress, but actually enables and can worsen situations

Of the eight, I’ll give you a bit more on the three I think are most important for redevelopment.

Inadequate Human Capital:

We all had those teachers growing up who we were smarter than, but most of us still got a pretty good education, public or private, because we were white, living in middle-income neighborhoods. Some of us even jump-started college with PSEO or AP classes, but if we were given education in the inner-city we would’ve had even less-qualified teachers and less of a chance to take advanced classes, not to mention the family support we got from our parents, whether in terms of money for good grades or groundings for bad grades-we were a motivated bunch.

Luckily, us white kids still don’t have to worry about future employers not hiring us because we are instinctually lazy (a “soft skill” most black people have held against them). This perceived human capital leads us right into the next cause of poverty:

Racial and Gender Discrimination:

Relating to the institutional economics of last week, racism and sexism is instilled within individuals whether it is recognized or not. One theorist (Glenn C. Loury) tells us these are racial stigmas, differing from discrimination because stigmas are how each individual relates to another based on race.

Racism and sexism in the United States derives from the constitution when black people were johannes_gutenberg3/5 human and women were left out all together, although white women were next in line to receive any benefits, which their male counterparts inherited from the constitution. And we all know the constitution stems from Enlightenment ideals, which wouldn’t have come along if Luther hadn’t pinned that 95 Theses on that Wittenberg church door starting the Reformation, and the 95 Theses wouldn’t have been mass produced if Gutenberg hadn’t invented the printing press a century earlier. But before we go blaming Gutenberg, remember he also printed the pamphlets for a group of rebel peasants fighting against serfdom. So if we can’t blame Gutenberg it’s best not to blame anyone but ourselves.

Public Policy:

You may already have noticed how each cause is somehow connected to public policy (and if not, you’re probably a Republican, or an Evangelical Christian), but I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone but the poor. The poor are unlucky enough to have their neighborhoods broken up by interstates, incinerators put in down the block and nullification for FHA Loans (allowing those who can afford it to move into nicer homes, while inner city homes depreciate), to name just a few policies. Many of these policies could be overturned if only the neighborhood had enough human capital to fight the injustices or to have the stamina to continually fight what is blatantly abuse. But after all, it is easier to step on colored toes than white ones and get away with it.

By Anna

welfare_reformTwo things need to happen in the fight against poverty: individuals have to make rational decisions and institutions have to shape human behavior for equal opportunity.  Though to me they are obvious factors that equally contribute to individuals living in poverty, many people blame one or the other, not understanding the particular situations, or why something is a stereotype.

Without boring you all to sleep with economical jargon let me just say that there are two schools of economic thought: one Republicans follow (the neoclassical view), the other Democrats adhere to (the institutional view)-yes, I realize I’m stereotyping, but it’s a stereotype for a reason.

1. Neoclassical: the individual must decide to stay in school and not do drugs because that is the most beneficial to “succeed” in this American society.  Individuals must act in self-interest (not to be confused with selfishness) and use rationality to decide what to do.

For example: For a high schooler in a low-income family this could mean going to school from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., working from 3:30 p.m. – midnight and then doing homework from midnight – 2 a.m., so there’s not a lot of time to do drugs (or to sleep).  These are the “working poor,” and there is a high probability that they may still need welfare to make ends meet.

2. Institutional: the system evolves with passing policies and shapes human behavior.  The institution can be formal (government laws and regulations) or informal (learned behavior, like giving people personal space).

For example: Traditionally, families could be on welfare from birth to death, but in 1996, welfare was reformed so someone could only be on federal welfare for five years, yet could still qualify for state welfare for a longer period of time.  Because of the institutional set up, it functions as a charity system today and does not act in developing the families to be able to get a higher education so that they have an opportunity to be paid enough to get off of welfare.

Four hundred words barely begin to address the issue of neoclassical and institutional economics.  It has taken hundreds of years for white men to get where they are in the world, and it has only been about 50 years since the United States has started to address its issues of race.  So how can we expect to see equality for all lived out in America for another hundred years?