Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Poverty : Blog Action Day

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist." - Archbishop Helder Camara

I spent part of the last week out and about in Winnipeg's downtown, taking pictures of the homeless and downtrodden for my Blog Action Day update. I took detailed notes on what I saw, the things I heard, and quotes from the people I talked to.

Notes and pictures that I eventually scrapped, along with my initial plan.

I thought about it for awhile and decided I couldn't, in good conscience, cynically trot these people out like some sideshow just for the sake of a few extra hits on my blog.

Everybody knows poverty exists everywhere, I don't need to throw out a bunch of numbers, statistics, and percentages to tell you that. Poverty is not necessarily confined to one geographic area. It's in the little-travelled alleys and on our major thoroughfares. It's in Third World countries as well as in your backyard. It's in the downtown of every booming metropolis and on the outskirts of every backwater town. In the suburbs, the trailer park, and the refugee camp. Everywhere.

So, what's to be done? What are we doing to help? I asked myself this over and over during my little outing - thinking that we obviously aren't doing enough. That is, until I retraced my steps...

I swear, I must have passed by the offices of two dozen social service agencies dedicated to helping the poor and indigent... from soup kitchens/missions to NGOs.

Which again, got me thinking... on an international level, there are dozens of aid agencies dedicated to helping the poor and needy - Government agencies, Non-Government aid groups, religious/faith-based organisations, philanthropists, etc. We have UNICEF ("For the Children!"), OXFAM, and the Salvation Army, to name but a few.

So, I have to ask the question - with all these people or groups (armed with funds from donations and grants) fighting to help the needy, feed the poor, and eradicate poverty - why hasn't poverty been eliminated?

Naturally, I have a number of theories based on what I've seen.

It seems to me that a lot of the money donated to these various NGO/NPOs and faith-based groups are eaten up by administration costs - it costs money to rent/lease your Bricks & Mortar, and more to buy advertising to get the word out. One wonders how much of every donated dollar actually reaches the poor?

Not trying to belittle or bemoan the good work these groups do, the costs are part of today's harsh reality - the cost of doing business, if you will.


(to be continued throughout the day until midnight CST)