When Helping Hurts and Shopping Helps!
At age 13, I stood on the 9th floor of a transitional home for former drug addicts in Washington DC. It overlooked the largest open-air drug market in the US. A woman with a voice like I had never heard shared her story of recovery and sang “Amazing Grace”. My life was changed. Situated only 2 miles from the White House, I couldn’t reconcile the poverty I saw with the wealth the capital city represented.
My return from the trip lead to a desire to be “the change I wanted to see in the world,” but it was often done without a paradigm for what lasting change could look like. Many mission trips, fundraising gigs, homeless feedings, over night shelter visits, and building trips later, I decided to join a relief and development organization after graduating from college. Our training, lead by Steve Corbett and Darrow Miller, transformed my way of thinking about poverty alleviation.
Much of what I learned 10 years ago during my time with Food for the Hungry can be summed up in the book, “When Helping Hurts,” co authored by Steve Corbett. The book speaks so much to what I believe the vision of Noonday Collection is accomplishing. “God, who is a worker, ordained work so that humans could worship Him through their work. Relief efforts applied inappropriately often cause the beneficiaries to abstain from work, thereby limiting their relationship with God through distorted worship or through no worship at all…. The goal [of poverty alleviation] is to restore people to experiencing humanness in the way that God intended. The crucial thing is to help people understand their identity as image bearers, to love their neighbors as themselves, to be stewards over God’s creation, and to bring glory to God in all things…… “
The very essence of the items you buy validate the God-image in each of our artisans. We begin with their gifts and craftsmanship, affirming that “God has indeed placed good gifts into every community." Our goal is to establish equitable, long-term relationships between our trading partners in order to ensure low-income artisans are truly being helped out of poverty. We are part of a movement to help others in vulnerable situations move towards economic self-sufficiency through dignified job creation. If we are in a direct relationship with the artisan group or if we are working through a wholesaler, we assure the artisans are being paid a fair wage in the local context. We give 0% back to the artisans. Instead, we purchase items from them up front. In most cases, the artisan is receiving around 2-4 times what they would receive for that product in their own local marketplace. Furthermore, we pay upfront, sometimes 50% and many times 100% for the product, even before it is made. In that way, we are able to shoulder the costs of materials and build a serious relationship based on trust.
The artisans are also empowering women here to run their own businesses. Through the Ambassador opportunity, the very items you buy also create job opportunities for women here in the USA.
“Development is a process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved- both the "helpers" and the "helped"- closer to being in right relationships 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 their work. Development is not done TO people or FOR people but WITH people. The key dynamic in development is promoting an empowering process in which all the people involved- both the "helper" and the "helped"- become more of what God created them to be.”(all quotes from "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It is a must read!)
Want to be a part of providing dignified work to the poor? Find your local ambassador and book a trunk show today!