So when does helping hurt? Steve Corbett, author of the book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, was in the Promise Zone last month explaining that exact concept to more than 30 registrants at the historic and breath-taking Pine Mountain Settlement School. Steve is a professor with Covenant College at Lookout Mountain, Georgia and was one of the key note speakers for the Faith-Based Economic Development 2 day workshop.
Helping hurts when it causes recipients to forget they are people endowed with problem solving skills, talents and capabilities. Helping hurts when the giver starts to feel used or takes on a paternal role to the recipient and most damaging is when this relationship becomes a way of life.
Steve suggests that with the best intentions of following a faith based obedience to care for one another, we have defined care too narrowly and limited it to crisis relief. We feed, clothe and repair houses which is absolutely necessary. But, no one is in a crisis forever and that is when the more challenging efforts of transitioning to self-sufficiency begin. This transition makes a new roof seem like child’s play in comparison. It takes a deeper relationship which means more time. It takes resources beyond food meaning more money and the biggest barrier is that it takes a boat load of patience.
But Steve was speaking at a faith-based economic development workshop. What does benevolence have to do with economic development? It took us two days to get at this point; however, I’ll attempt to summarize. If faith-based organizations move from only providing crisis relief and to providing self-sufficiency mentoring and guidance, then the end result is more folks contributing to the economy, holding down jobs, paying taxes and adding to our quality of life. That my friends is economic development.
What excites me about faith-based economic development is that it brings a new group to the table who are dedicated, devout and highly motivated leaders to join in the efforts to either win the war on poverty or at least a few more battles. The workshop was made possible by a sponsorship from the USDA Faith-based agencies and Neighborhoods and the Kentucky Innovation Center of London.
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