Urgent Evoke

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"Don’t fight culture"

Dr. Ruby Payne wrote a book called "A Framework for Understanding Poverty". In it, she tells the story of a very poor family who receives a refrigerator as a gift from a church. The church congregation took up a collection to buy the refrigerator because the family did not have a refrigerator, and was spending what little money it had on eating out instead of cooking less expensive (and more nutritious) home-cooked meals.

Within a few weeks, the family disappears; they stop attending church and aren't anywhere to be found in the community. After a while they return to the community. As it turns out, they sold the refigerator and went on a short camping trip together.

When asked why they did this, the mother of the family replied that the biggest need she had was for her family to have a few days away from their "same old, same old" everyday life. The stresses caused by the never-changing lifestyle were relieved by the ability to take a "once-in-a-lifetime" mini-vacation. The family valued this relief more than the convenience of having a refrigerator.

This taught me that you can't "fight culture" and impose a solution on other people. The solution has to be one that fits people's own values and culture.

Views: 22

Comment by Robert Hawkins on March 4, 2010 at 1:02am
This reflects the idea behind "conditional cash transfer" programs. Invest in a positive social good -- for instance sending your child to school -- and simply make a cash payment for this action, and let the beneficiary figure out how to spend the money.
Comment by Jamie Clarke on March 4, 2010 at 1:45am
I think this excerpt also shines the light on not fully realizing the situation the family was under. In addition to the need for dispersing stress with the mini-vacation, the gift also came with a cost, perhaps the additional monthly fee of keeping a refrigerator powered detracted from its value for preserving food?
Comment by Peter Fleenor on March 4, 2010 at 1:57am
but it also illustrates some of the short-sightedness that poverty can create. when living hand to mouth, its hard to see the value in the future. i'm glad the family in took a much needed break, but what did that change? they were relaxed and more cohesive as a family and the refrigerator was probably a poor choice, but focusing on the here and now to the exclusion of the future only fuels the core problem. money for rent might have had a better impact on the family.
Comment by Robin Johnston on March 4, 2010 at 2:00am
Nice insights, Jamie and Peter!
Comment by Kimberlynne Fox on March 4, 2010 at 2:05am
This. Just.. this. It's brilliant, and so poignant. Especially as an American, I understand why so many places in the world resent us. You can't help someone by replacing what they know; you can only teach them, so that they know more.
Comment by Robin Johnston on March 4, 2010 at 2:10am
Or... let them teach you! ;-)


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