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Reaching the poor

As we grow up, family, circumstances and society teach us that we are different, we are better than them or they are better than us. By the time a child starts school, they have been wired to think a certain way, and their script has been written. The rest of their life often goes according to this script, only a few manage to change their script. Ever wondered what would have happened to the convicts on death row if their circumstances had been different. Think about prisoner ‘Jack’. How would Jack have turned out had he grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth, gone to Eaton and the Queen of England was his grandmother? I believe that Jack probably would have been a high flyer. If he had grown up sheltered and privileged, he probably wouldn’t have ended up on death row. Maybe the opposite would also be interesting. Had Prince Harry been born Harry James Coleman in the projects with a mother hooked on crack cocaine, and an absent father, would he have escaped a life of crime, women and drugs? Harry J Coleman would probably be a typical projects boy.

We become the people we are because of the circumstances we find ourselves in. Most of the times, it is not by choice, it is the hand of God! I wouldn’t have minded being Princess Trish of Wales, but I have to be content with being Trish. The poor are no different from us; they were just born into different circumstances. The poor deserve the best in much the same way as all of us do. They didn’t choose to be born in the family they were born or the part of town they were born in. I watched Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock. Big Mike (the main character) was born into a difficult situation but was taken in by a wealthy family and he ended up in a top university with a football scholarship. This was all beyond his reach in his previous circumstances. I was fascinated by the fact that, because he was such a big boy, the coach decided he had to become the star footballer of the team, even though he didn’t know the first thing about football. Life had a way of colluding to make thing happen for him. He did turn out to be a big star, but that was because someone had spotted him one night when he had nowhere to go, then the coach made it his mission to make the best footballer out of him and his adoptive mother, Sandra Bullock, made sure he made the score to get into the university. Had he not walked into all this he would have turned out to be another black guy from the ghetto.

We can actually change the lives of the many marginalized people if we decided to do something about it. We have a part to play and it first begins with our attitudes towards the poor. It is so easy to walk down a street and not notice the beggar on the corner. We’ve subconsciously tuned out the poor the way we tune out adverts on TV. When we do notice them, we despise them and try to get away as quickly as possible. Someone noticed Big Mike and that one look changed his whole life. We at the PBA use the Micro Mba to reach the poor. It teaches those who have been previously disadvantaged how to start a micro business. Not only does it teach relevant business skills, it takes them out of a victim and welfare mentality to a place where they can change their own lives. Our clients come to us with no hope, in despair, distrusting, disillusioned, helpless, cynical and insecure. Our course is designed to assist such people to believe in themselves and to take responsibility for their own economic and social destinies. It is more than a business course.

The story of Big Mike leaps out for me, because Big Mike had to exert himself and learn to play sport, he had to catch up on his school work. This was the best way of changing his life. Handouts were just going to keep him dependant on others. He was given a fair chance to change his own life and he did. Big Mike was taken in by his new family, they gave him responsiblity of his life, they didn’t hold him with kid gloves. They encouraged him to take responsibility and showed him that he could do anything he set his mind on. They didn’t lower the standards expected from him because he had a tough life. They walked through all his issues together until he came to a place where he was strong in his own right. The first step in development is to give people responsibility for their own lives and give them the power to change their lives. When people are dissempowered small things make a difference to them. How you speak to them impacts their self esteem. If they come to attend our course, they feel inadequate and they feel inferior. It is my duty at the trainer to make them feel comfortable so that they can get the most from the training. How they perceive me as the trainer also affects how they learn and their confidence. If they see my as the trainer, they feel like my trainees and if I am the teacher, they are my students and I HAVE AUTHORITY OVER THEM. The teacher always has the right answers, the teacher is to be looked up to and the trainer knows it all and breeds a sitatuation where grown men and women feel like like grade school students.

If we treat people like children, they will tend to become dependant on us. If we treat them as adults and our clients, they seem to respond by assuming responsibility of their situations. If they are my clients, I am a service provider and I’m there to serve them or facilitate a process so that they are empowered. They deserve the best and in everything we do, we need to treat them not as poor people but as our clients who require a service from us. It is vital to always remember that clients have the competency and maturity to assume responsibility for their own development and growth. If we treat clients like children they may just begin to behave like them and that is not the result we are aiming for. It is better to see them as the budding entrepreneur, who knows in a few years, they could be worth quite a bit. We can do more than lend a helping hand. We can give them a hand up, and not a hand out. We can give them a way out of their situation. There are so many Big Mike’s out their, full of potential, without any means of releasing their potential.

It’s Ok to lend a hand the challenge is getting people to let go of it! J Maxwell

Categories: Development
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