Not All Poverty Is Created Equal

“A helpful first step in thinking about working with the poor is any context whether the situation calls for relief, rehabilitation, or development. In fact, the failure to distinguish among these situations is one of the most common reasons that poverty-alleviation efforts often do harm.

‘Relief’ can be defined as the urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from a natural or man-made crisis. There is a need to halt the free-fall, to ‘stop the bleeding,’ and this is what relief attempts to do. The key feature of relief is a provider-receiver dynamic in which the provider gives assistance – often material – to the receiver, who is largely incapable of helping himself at that time. The Good Samaritan’s bandaging of the helpless man who lay bleeding along the roadside is an excellent example of relief applied appropriately.

‘Rehabilitation’ begins as soon as the bleeding stops; it seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions. The key feature of rehabilitation is a dynamic of working with the tsunami victims as they participate in their own recovery, moving from point 2 to point 3.

‘Development’ is a process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved –both the ‘helper’ and the ‘helped’ – closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. In particular, as the materially poor develop, they are better able to fulfill their calling of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruits of that work.

Development is not done to people or for people but with people. One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make, by far, is in applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.”

The above is an excerpt from “When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... And Yourself” by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

What do you think about when helping hurts? What do you or your organization do to help without hurting?

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