Four weeks ago I engaged a group of passionate, self-driven and world-changing young adults in an online course titled: Introduction to moral imagination and challenges in poverty alleviation. This course is being offered by Acumen Fund, an organization that tackles the way poverty is viewed and alleviated. As the course draws to a close, I continue to grapple with some critical personal motivations as to what drives me to social justice. Living a life of immersion for example, means that I need to be aware of the community I am engaged in and listen keenly to their narrative, something that is rarely if ever considered. I have found myself questioning the model of philanthropy I have used in the past and if this model has been effective in helping alleviate the problems of the community I am in or if they are merely hand outs that cause the community to deteriorate and lose their sense of autonomy. For example, I was recently driving in Westlands, Nairobi and saw something that utterly baffled me. I saw a street boy holding a sort of piggy bank while begging. I wondered quite angrily why, if he has the skill to make these boxes, does he need my money. Isn’t it better that he then was empowered to make many more of these little boxes as a source of income?
So who are the poor and do they need my help? In a conflict class I did while in graduate school, I encountered the word happy slave. A happy slave according to my lecturer is an individual who is content with the status quo and may be in a violent situation but views any assistance from outside quarters as confrontational. The question I ask then is this, are the poor that I interact with in my projects happy with their lifestyles? It is hard to understand the beliefs, familial upbringing and core values of a human being, let alone the dynamics that they find themselves in. It is with this that I continue to question what drives me to help the needy around me and if these methods are pushing these precious people further down a rabbit hole.