Tendai a young girl moved to the city to pursue a better life. She had lived in the rural areas all her life and this was her first experience of the city. She was enjoying it and taking everything in. She had gone to a poor rural school where the teacher was the only one with a text-book. She had never seen electricity and didn’t understand when they taught her about light and electricity. Even though she had gone to school, she had never had a chance. The things we take for granted like electricity, lights, books, computers, internet, were all out of reach for Tendai. She is now working a s a domestic help and maybe with a bit of focus and good fortune she might be able to get out of the cycle of poverty.
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. Tendai had no choice in life, she was born poor and life is set to keep her that way.
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
As I travel around Zimbabwe there is something that glares at me in the face. It is not the dilapidated buildings and potholes that hit me in the face. It is the way that people’s hearts are calloused and they only really think about themselves. The orphans go unnoticed, the beggars, widows, poor all go unnoticed. We look down with disgust and stay as far away as possible, because we are too good to associate with them. The class system has found its way back into our society.
I grew up in a beautiful Zimbabwe, where Harare was known as the sunshine city and was the cleanest city in the world. I’d like to see the former glory of Zimbabwe restored with its people lifted from poverty. When I grew up, there were no street kids on the roads begging for money, no people surviving on one meal a day, no professional people doing menial jobs in Zimbabwe or abroad. I know that it is possible to get back to that place, where Zimbabwe is no longer the basket case of Africa but the bread basket of Africa.
One person can make a difference. If only more of us would get together and make a difference, we would do so much more. In Africa we expect the government to solve all our problems, in the West individuals don’t wait for the government to solve problems, they become the solution to the problem. As African’s we can choose to wait for the government to do something, or for NGO’s to do something or we can take the future into our own hands and do something ourselves. This doesn’t abdicate the government from its responsibilities, but when society and government work together we can do more.
Enter the social Entrepreneur
One way of taking the future into your hands is to start a social enterprise. A social enterprise is a business with more than a conscience. It is a business whose primary focus is to solve social problems. Instead of just running a business profitably and then pocketing all the profits, a social enterprise commits a good proportion of profits to solve social problems. Zimbabwe has needs everywhere, poverty, hunger, transportation, roads, education, schools, clinics, HIV and Aids, orphans and widows. All these areas need innovative solutions and innovators who will grab the bull by the horns and do something. Strive Masiyiwa can be classed as a social entrepreneur because his Capernaum Trust educates orphans in Zimbabwe and he personally raises a lot of money for social causes around Africa.
The Social Entrepreneur is like Batman, Spider-man, Jet Li, Chuck Norris , James Bond or Jean Claude Van Damme. My nephews and nieces would say BEN TEN!!!! They are quick to the rescue and can solve the problem. When something gets stuck, they get it unstuck, when something goes wrong, they run to the rescue. Society believes in them and counts on them to get down to the bottom of a problem. They are there when we need them and always get rid of the problem!!!Social Entrepreneurs are our real life heroes!!!
With only 5% of the population in formal employment, the government does not have the resources to bring about much change. Even if the government wanted to deliver services, they cannot afford to. Shall we then wait for the funds to make their way into the government coffers before we see change? We could be waiting a long time before that happens. No government can do it all. The only way to change things is to take responsibility. It is up to us, those on the ground to become the solution that we want to see.
If your local clinic isn’t functioning and needs supplies, how about doing something about it. It’s sad that it is not Africans at the forefront of most help Africa campaigns. We’d rather wait for foreigners and NGO’s to come and give us water and build schools and send our children to school. Better still, we’ll apply for jobs with the NGO’s doing such work, earn huge salaries and drive big cars. When shall we start our own organizations that do such great work? We should have the passion and the drive to solve our own problems.
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