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What if our efforts to fight poverty have hurt more than they’ve helped? Do good intentions always equal good impact? What if we’re part of the problem?
Last Monday, my fellow intern, Kelly, wrote about the importance of working with—not for—the poor. Dignity is more effective than pity; the poor need a seat at the table, not a handout. Unfortunately, the poverty industry as we know it has far too often maintained the us vs. them mentality. Donations of money, food, clothing, and much more pour in; while this can be a boon for people in poverty in the short term, this variety of long-term aid can leave economies, local business owners, and individuals worse than it found them.
That’s all a little confusing, though, isn’t it? Phrases like “the poverty industry” can make us want to run far away from any such discussions. What does all of this really mean, anyway?
There are two things that have been most helpful to me in learning about poverty and how we should (and should not) address it. First is the documentary Poverty, Inc. I saw this film for the first time last year, and I haven’t stopped talking about it since. In a mere 90 minutes, Poverty, Inc. introduces viewers to stories of success and failure in poverty alleviation, explanations of why the system works the way it does, and solutions for forward movement. I can’t recommend it highly enough—get yourself on over to Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes, and watch it.
The second thing that’s been helpful to me is getting involved with organizations such as Mocha Club. The reason I applied to this internship at all is that, after getting to know Mocha Club last spring when I helped organize a showing of Poverty, Inc. on my college campus, I was impressed by the candid, honest way that Mocha Club seeks to help those in poverty in Africa and connect them to people here in America. Mocha Club wants to work with people in poverty; they help us break down the notion that poverty alleviation is a simple idea, and Mocha Club seeks to do this work in a humble manner that listens first to community members and workers already on the ground.
So what does all this mean for you? Go watch Poverty, Inc. Ask good questions. Find winsome, honest nonprofits like Mocha Club to support. (Go back to Kelly’s post from last week, and read the book she mentions, When Helping Hurts!) Poverty alleviation and relief isn’t impossible—it’s just not simple. But it can start with people like us taking steps to effect a cultural paradigm shift in the way we talk about the poor. It starts right here.
Whenever you travel or experience something new and different, your return home comes with the inevitable onslaught of questions. Boil all those questions down, and everyone is asking essentially the same thing: What was it like? What did life look like there?
This gets at a desire that many of us, especially here at Mocha Club, share: to experience the lives of people who are different from us. What is Africa like? We want to know.
What do you do on a Tuesday morning in urban Kenya? What does Friday night look like in rural Malawi? Is it immensely different from life in America? Is it similar? Whenever it’s me on the receiving end of questions like these, I fumble around for answers, remember we all like showing more than telling, and then stick my iPhone in front of my listeners. This is what driving down the road on a Saturday afternoon in rural Uganda looks like. Cows being herded down the highway. Driving on the left side instead of the right, with innumerable speed bumps when you’re passing through every village. That’s not a baby you hear crying at 0:11 seconds—it’s a goat bleating. Those are the Rwenzori mountains in the distance; you’re heading east. It looks like rain. Of course, this is only a tiny moment—one minute and one second, to be exact. But moments like this can be invaluable to us. We get to step out of our own selves and be someone else for that minute. And when we go back to our own selves, the ones holding a phone or sitting in front of a computer in the United States of America, we find that Africa isn’t so far away after all.
We are excited to welcome another new Mochatern for the Fall 2016 season, Kelly! She has traveled all the way from Harrisonburg, Virginia to hang out with us in Nashville for the season and we are looking forward to having her as part of our day-to-day Mocha Club team!
Hometown: Pasadena, MD
University: James Madison University, 2013, English
Favorite Place: Anywhere in and around Harrisonburg, VA with a view of the mountains
Walk up song: Switchfoot’s “Let It Out”
Nashville bucket list: Go on adventures/to concerts with my dear friend who lives here, find bookstores with used books (aka book thrifting), visit Jenni’s on more than one occasion
How I take my coffee: Unadulterated (aka black)
Guilty pleasure: Eating homemade just-out-of-the-oven bread with Irish butter
Why I’m excited about interning at Mocha: I love the way this organization sees aid as a partnership and that African leaders decide what is needed in their communities. Since my experience with nonprofits so far has been focused on the U.S., I look forward to working with an international organization. I love that I’ll have multiple roles and get to be a part of many different projects. I’ve had a great experience meeting staff so far and am thrilled to get to work alongside them!
Mocha Club is heading out on the #GUNSHY tour with Matt Wertz this Fall! And we are looking for volunteers to help out at each show. Help support our friends in Africa by volunteering at the Mocha Club table!
We need 2 people to work the Mocha Club table and Matt’s merch table at each of the concerts listed below. Would you be available? It will be a fun night sharing about Mocha Club and welcoming new people into our community. We can’t do this without you!
A fun bonus is that Mocha Club table staff get free admission to the concert!
GUNSHY FALL 2016 TOUR
September 14: Bryan, TX // VOLUNTEER!
September 15 : Austin, TX // VOLUNTEER!
September 16 : Dallas, TX // VOLUNTEER!
September 17 : Waco, TX // VOLUNTEER!
September 18 : Houston, TX // VOLUNTEER!
September 20: Phoenix, AZ // VOLUNTEER!
September 23 : Hollywood, CA // VOLUNTEER!
September 27 : San Francisco, CA // VOLUNTEER!
September 29 : Portland, OR // VOLUNTEER!
September 30 : Seattle, WA // VOLUNTEER!
October 4: Salt Lake City, UT // VOLUNTEER!
October 6 : Denver, CO // VOLUNTEER!
October 8 : Lawrence, KS // VOLUNTEER!
October 9 : St. Louis, MO // VOLUNTEER!
October 19 : Orlando, FL // VOLUNTEER!
October 21: Charlotte, NC // VOLUNTEER!
October 23 : Charlottesville, VA // VOLUNTEER!
October 26 : Washington D.C. // VOLUNTEER!
October 27 : Allston, MA // VOLUNTEER!
October 28: New York City, NY // VOLUNTEER!
October 30 : Philadelphia, PA // VOLUNTEER!
November 10 : Ferndale, MI // VOLUNTEER!
November 11 : Grand Rapids, MI // VOLUNTEER!
November 12 : Chicago, IL // VOLUNTEER!
November 13: Minneapolis, MN // VOLUNTEER!
November 15 : Madison, WI // VOLUNTEER!
November 16 : Indianapolis, IN // VOLUNTEER!
November 17 : Louisville, KY // VOLUNTEER!
December 2 : Atlanta, GA // VOLUNTEER!
December 3 : Birmingham, AL // VOLUNTEER!
We’re looking for people who are…
What Mocha Club table staff will need to do at the concert:
We are excited to welcome our new Mochatern for the Fall 2016 season, Lindsey! She was part of the group from Belmont University who partnered with Mocha Club to host a screening of the Poverty, Inc. film on NGOs & foreign aid. We are looking forward to having her as part of our day-to-day Mocha Club team!
Belmont University, Junior English major
Favorite place: Climb Nashville. And Portland Brew!
Walk up song? Hymns; any of them.
Nashville bucket list: find decent ethnic foods in this town. Current goals: Ethiopian, Indian, Ramen, and Korean. Any recommendations appreciated!
How do you take your mocha [coffee]? I don’t, actually! But give me tea, no milk no sugar, any day.
Guilty pleasure? Taylor Swift.
Why are you excited about interning with Mocha Club? Excited to see the inner workings and thought behind an Africa-focused nonprofit that I’ve respected for so long!
Happy Monday, Mocha Club!
I created a painting (you guys will see the video, as well as the painting this week!) and I put the word “ubuntu” on it. It is a theory that comes from the South African region and it means “a quality that includes essential human virtues; compassion and humanity”. And I love it. I researched it more and I found that in certain regions of South Africa, if someone does something wrong they are taken to the center of the village they live in and the tribe stands around the person in a circle for two days and they talk about all of the good things that person has done. Their belief is that each person is good and they will make mistakes sometimes. They believe that “unity and affirmation have more power to change behavior than shame and punishment.”, which is known as ubuntu.
I mean how cool is that? That the people in their village make sure that person that messed up knows of all of the good things they have ever done and that through all the bad things, they are not going to “shame” or “punish” them for it, but yet be there for them and help them get through it. I believe that we all somehow have that. I mean, no one surrounds you for two days and talks about the good you’ve done, but we all get reassured of it somehow when we mess up from our friends and family. We know they are there for us through the good and the bad. I think that is pretty awesome.
Peace and blessings,
Last month, a team from Nashville traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya on the #MCJourney2016. While in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, the team stopped by to visit our project partners at Women at Risk. These women formerly worked on the streets in desperate circumstances to take care of themselves and their families. Women at Risk came alongside them to provide food, care, and ultimately, a new way of life. One of the opportunities of employment is through jewelry making.
When you buy the Ethiopia Necklace, you provide counseling & job skills training to a woman in the program. You are also helping to support her family through your purchase. Made from re-purposed artillery & scrap metal, you can take a piece of Africa with you.
This is a very limited-edition piece with only a few in inventory. Purchase this exclusive piece today and share the story of Mocha Club with a friend.
Working in a place like the DRC takes patience and vision. Assess the circumstances alone, and you might just leave.
The success of any work relies on building relationship first. Without a direct connection to and investment in the people at work in Africa, efforts fall short.
Sister Alvera leads the Flame of Love Orphanage. She has cared for these children for a long time because, while this group of orphans is small, their lives are significant. Last fall, we invested financially in the immediate need for a new dormitory and kitchen. Construction has concluded.
Months back, Sister Alvera and DRC Country Director, Denis championed sustainability efforts and assessed the purchase of farmland to both teach students agricultural skills and grow produce to sell. Denis and Sister Alvera are determining that this agricultural program could make enough money to significantly reduce the orphanage’s overall operations costs.
Today, the orphanage is growing a potato farm that helps feed the orphans in Sister Alvera’s care!