A String of Beads

“…those who come to live in Africa are constantly faced with the problem of balancing a natural compassion with the necessity to respect the person in trouble.  It is necessary to help in a controlled fashion that will not upset the recipient’s lifestyle or infringe on his self respect.  So often we over react to the problem, which inevitably involves the poverty and the helplessness of a person, and we respond with overwhelming material answers which make us feel good. But such answers deprive the recipient of the experience of her or his own life and of the necessity to search for answers. ”                                                         

             A String of Beads – Stories of Africa Today by Susan Wood (1918)

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5 Responses to A String of Beads

  1. “But such answers deprive the recipient of the experience of her or his own life and of the necessity to search for answers”. When someone wanders into a refugee camp in Darfur are they not experiencing their own life + searching for answers; when someone accepts a child sponsorship from an “interfering” agency are they not seeking answers+ experiencing their own lives? I’ve never been to Africa but have sponsored a child in Senegal for 16 years – should I stop? Am I ruining these childrens’ lives with my interfering arrogant First World viewpoint? Maybe I should go with my gut instinct feeling rather than what Susan Wood’s point of view? Every NGO should be trying to do themselves out of business – a comment I read regarding Haiti. Will they ever? Should they all withdraw enmasse + let the chips fall where they may in our new world order. Certainly not a unique view but rather a common one these days – I think Ms. Wood is expressing a very common isolationist /free market philosophy + personally I find nothing progressive or about it – a columnist in the Kelowna Courier (Salomon Rayek) regularly expresses this. The popularity of this type of thinking is leading in a reduction to Canada’s foreign program. I think its called “Let them eat cake”. So there Tony Dawson.

  2. wadawson says:

    Perhaps you can get hold of the book Bob; it is excellent and does a sensitive job of looking at more than one side. The words she used were ‘over react’; Susan Wood never suggests not ‘reacting’.
    Over 400 girls asked Harambee for assistance this year. We said yes to 60. If Canadian donors or any donor for that matter, sent us the money, we’d give out more scholarships.

    Through her short stories and throughout her life, Susan Wood helps me to look at this dilemma. With looking at it and living it comes a tiny bit of understanding. I want to go to my girls homes and I don’t want to. Doors open if I go. I catch a bit of their lives that one does not see from the window of the bus traveling through but if I go I know I will likely be asked to contribute to further education and to other family needs. Such are the needs…

    Tony

  3. bobparkhurst says:

    I may have a look at the book Tony. I read your blog entry regarding the turning away of the girls who were not accepted for scholarships, but those who even had the opportunity to apply are a very small number, no? I have no idea how much Africans want help from the industrialized economic grouping but it always appears to be both wanted + needed? How does 1 deal with corruption which appears to be a big problem in many countries? Can outsiders deal with internal corruption – I don’t think so. Can all Africans oppose corruption without fearing for their lives? How many Africans have lost their lives in armed conflicts, tribal conflicts, civil wars in the past 20 years? I know this may sound cynical but how does one measure over re-acting or the outcomes of not acting at all, either in terms of aid or sometimes military intervention? Rwanda is a good example of not reacting, so is the Congo. Why doesn’t the Kenyan Gov’t or any other African country offer a full public education, why aren’t the Kenyan people working towards this, isn’t it one of Africa’s most stable “democracies”? There is much Chinese investment in Africa including Kenya – how is this money being used? Anyhow Tony I hope you don’t mind some discussion on your blog, but after a year there you have some insight into some of these questions which you must have had yourself? Perhaps I misunderstood the quotation or it doesn’t make sense to me without ever having been to Africa. You said previously that you never thought of Tanzanians as living in poverty – talking economic not spiritual poverty. Now when the 340 applicants who were turned away, asked in desperation what they would do, is this not poverty? Now I sort of think of some of the commentary from the”hands off Africa” point of view, seems to be saying: Continue to donate the money but then let us damn you for interfering + imposing your values on us. Gee all I ever wanted to do was help, not having my motives for doing so questioned if you understand what I am saying. If the help is needed + or required why make donors doubt themselves?

    Bob

  4. wadawson says:

    A String of Beads…
    Posted on February 26, 2013 by wadawson

    I may have a look at the book Tony. I read your blog entry regarding the turning away of the girls who were not accepted for scholarships, but those who even had the opportunity to apply are a very small number, no? A PIN PRICK ON THE MAP. SO WHY BOTHER? BECAUSE 60 GET A CHANCE TO GO TO SCHOOL I have no idea how much Africans want help from the industrialized economic grouping but it always appears to be both wanted + needed? YES. BUT I’D LIKE TO SEE AFRICANS COMING TO CANADA FOR TRAINING IF NEED BE AND THEN RETURNING TO THEIR HOMES. THEY APPEAR QUITE CAPABLE AND B RIGHT. How does 1 deal with corruption which appears to be a big problem in many countries? HOW? BY GIVING THE GIRLS SEVERAL INTERVIEWS. BY SENDING HARAMBEE GRADUATES OUT TO CHECK ON THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION GATHERED. AT THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME AN ARMY OF NATIONALS ARE EMPLOYED TO NUMBER CRUNCH TO MAKE SURE BAGS OF GRAIN ARE NOT STOLEN BY TEACHERS (WHO ARE UNDERPAID) ETC. ETC. HOW DO WE COPE WITH CORRUPTION IN OUR OWN COUNTRY? DO WE GIVE BY TYING AID TO BEHAVOIUR AT THE EXPENSE OF THOSE WHO ARE HUNGRY AND HAVE NO INFLUENCE OVER CORRUPTION? Can outsiders deal with internal corruption – I don’t think so. YOU FIRE THOSE WHO ARE STEALING FROM YOU JUST AS AT HOME. Can all Africans oppose corruption without fearing for their lives? LIKELY RISKY NO? How many Africans have lost their lives in armed conflicts, tribal conflicts, civil wars in the past 20 years? UNTOLD I know this may sound cynical but how does one measure over re-acting or the outcomes of not acting at all, either in terms of aid or sometimes military intervention? THE BOOK AND MY COMMENT ARE LOOKING AT CLOSER RELATIONS. DO I GO OUT ON THE STREET RIGHT NOW AND GIVE MY $ AWAY BECAUSE I KNOW EVERYBODY WALKING DOWN THE STREET RIGHT NOW OUT SIDE MY GUARDED COMPOUND HAS NOT ONE SPARE CENT IN THEIR POCKET? OR DO I REFLECT AND SELECT AND HELP GET SCHOLARSHIPS FOR 60 GIRLS AND LEAVE IT AT THAT? I GAVE A FELLOW $ TO REPAIR HIS BIKE AND WITHIN 30 SECONDS HE ASKED FOR $ TO BUY HIS FATHER A PLOW. I GAVE A WATCHMAN SOME XMAS TREATS AND HE THEN ASKED ME FOR A COW. I PAID FOR THE SCHOOLING FOR MY GIRLS HERE AND THEY WANT ME TO COVER UNIVERSITY, FOR THEIR BROTHER AND SISTER TOO…AND WHO CAN BLAME THEM. I DON’T BUT I HAVE TO REACT NOT OVER-REACT. AT WHAT POINT DOES GIVING TURN INTO TAKING? THIS IS WHAT SUSAN IS WRITING ABOUT. IT CAN BECOME DESTRUCTIVE. I AM TRYING TO SUGGEST THAT YOUR SUPPORTING A STUDENT IN SENEGAL IS VITAL. AFTER A YEAR HERE HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS? (Rethorical question) YOU ARE THINKING BIGGER THAN I AM AND I HAVE TO SUSTAIN MYSELF ON THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL ELSE I MIGHT FALL APART. is a good example of nRwanda ot reacting, so is the Congo. YES. OF COURSE. Why doesn’t the Kenyan Gov’t or any other African country offer a full public education, why aren’t the Kenyan people working towards this, isn’t it one of Africa’s most stable “democracies”? CORRUPTION LIKELY. I INTERVIEWED A GIRL WHOSE FATHER AND TWO BROTHERS ‘DISAPPEARED’ DURING THE ELECTIONS IN 2007. GONE. DOWN THE STREET FROM WHERE I LIVE A MAN WAS KILLED DURING THE 2007 ELECTIONS. TEAR GAS FILLED THIS STREET APPARENTLY. THE WORD IS OUT THAT EVERYONE IS TO TRY TO BE PEACEFUL DURING THE ELECTIONS NEXT WEEK. ONE OF THE CANDIDATES IS SUPPOSED TO BE TRIED IN THE HAGUE FOR CRIMES BUT IS RUNNING IN THIS ELECTION. LIFE IS PHUQUING HARD. WE ARE TO STAY CLOSE TO HOME AND INSIDE THE COMPOUND NEXT WEEK. VSO HAS PULLED THEIR VOLUNTEERS OUT OF KENYA .There is much Chinese investment in Africa including Kenya – how is this money being used? THE CHINESE APPARENTLY TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH. DO NOT TIE AID TO POLITICAL STABILITY OR THESE FEEL-GOOD MILLENIUM GOALS. YADA YADA. THEY WERE BUILDING A ROAD IN TANZANIA AND LIKELY TRADE THIS FOR RAW MATERIALS. POSSIBLY HONEST ABOUT WHAT THEY WANT. ALSO SMART BECAUSE THEY SELL ALOT HERE TOO, JUST LIKE AT ANY MALLMART ONLY IT’S ON THE ROAD SIDE: BIKES. POTS AND PANS. CLOTHES. RUBBER SANDALS. GREAT MARKET AFRIKA. LOTS OF PEOPLE OUT SHOPPING. Anyhow Tony I hope you don’t mind some discussion on your blog, WHAT I WANT but after a year there you have some insight into some of these questions which you must have had yourself? Perhaps I misunderstood the quotation DID NOT GIVE YOU MUCH OF A CONTEXT ‘CEPT AS IT WOULD RELATE TO MY BLOG OVER THIS PAST YEAR WHICH IS A LOT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT or it doesn’t make sense to me without ever having been to Africa. You said previously that you never thought of Tanzanians as living in poverty – talking economic not spiritual poverty. Now when the 340 applicants who were turned away, asked in desperation what they would do, is this not poverty? NO, I SAID I DIDN’T LINK THE WORD POVERTY WITH TANZANIANS. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THERE IS NO POVERTY. IT IS HERE. IT IS LIFE HERE AND EVERYBODY WANTS OUT OF IT. GEEZ, THIS ‘SUSTAINABLE’ WORD – EVERYBODY THE WORLD OVER WANTS TO BE UPWARDLY MOBILE. JUST LIKE US AND WE DO TOO. YOU CAUGHT WHAT I WAS REFERRING TO WHEN YOU SAW THE PHOTOS OF ISACK AND HIS FAMILY. Now I sort of think of some of the commentary from the”hands off Africa” point of view, seems to be saying: Continue to donate the money but then let us damn you for interfering + imposing your values on us. Gee all I ever wanted to do was help, BUT THERE IS HELP AND THERE IS HELP AS YOU KNOW, WHICH IS WHY YOU CHOSE A SENEGALESE STUDENT. GIVE A PERSON FISH AND S/HE OF COURSE WILL EAT DUH BUT GIVE S/HIM A ROD AND LIKELY S/HE’LL CATCH ANOTHER AND ANOTHER; OR BETTER STILL TEACH A PERSON TO MAKE A ROD…YADA YADAAA . YES, I THINK YOU SHOULD TRY TO READ THE BOOK BECAUSE YOU AND I ARE TALKING A BIT AT CROSS PURPOSES. not having my motives for doing so questioned if you understand what I am saying. If the help is needed + or required why make donors doubt themselves? YES DONORS SHOULD DOUBT THEMSELVES AND THEIR GOVTS. MUST STRUGGLE. I AM. I THOUGHT THIS WAS WHAT THIS BLOG WAS ABOUT.
    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
    Posted on February 25, 2013 by wadawson

  5. wadawson says:

    A letter from abroad
    Posted on February 28, 2013 by wadawson

    Thanks for continuing the blog, it is very insightful and stimulating to thought.

    Education is one of the only things that belongs to people, and can only be taken away by taking away their minds or lives. It is possible to lose money in stock and stock markets and real estate ( which is not real if one does not pay the appropriate taxes and other costs). Education goes with the people, the person, and allows critical thought and educated judgements.

    The world is changing, whether we want it to or not, it is important to give people the opportunity to adapt to that change. Life in small villages and subsistence farming was always marginal (hence subsistence), with the weakest falling by the wayside.

    How to fight corruption? One element is to educate the poor, the downtrodden, the hungry, the fatherless, those who have known privation and can deeply empathasize with the oppressed. Some of them will become corrupted given the opportunity, but others will not, and over time it may be possible to reduce the cycle of corruption.

    We never know when we may have touched a life and changed it, but it is impossible to live and interact in the world and not touch other people’s lives. Being afraid to act and touch is a real problem. Heavy proselitisation and knowing what is best for other people is dangerous to both sides, but facilitating what people want, and giving them the tools to try to achieve those goals is generally a good thing. Your example – give them a fishing rod, not a fish.

    I am helping a girl and a family here, and interfering in their lives. I may at some level be enabling the parents to not work their very hardest, but I am also enabling a girl to go to high school that otherwise would have been entirely out of her reach. With an education she can still live in a small village and have babies and live as her parents are living, or she will have the opportunity to adapt to the changes that are already here in Mexico, and perhaps be better able to help her family and community, and to see her children get an education as good or better than her own. At least she is meeting the group of other students who may be going places and doing things, and marry a man who has more skills than just operating a machete.

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