Thursday, 24 July 2014

Form of Colonization?

So... something is rolling in my mind and it`s not leaving so ... here I am to 'rant' a little... 

In the last week we had a large group come through J.Lynn's. They were mostly women and part of some very impressive ministries and movements. When I checked on their table they asked me to share about the history and vision of J.Lynn's. So I shared... stressing that we're giving these women a chance to transform their lives - spiritually, socially and economically - through on hands business involvement, training in health, literacy, personal budgeting, they will develop their own business plans, etc. 

Later that day, I went surfing on the net to see what I could find out about various members of that team. Definitely impressive indeed... but... one thing struck me. Struck me deeply actually. 

You see, they are all connected somehow into an organization which buys goods from an association or two here in Rwanda. They also buy from some other associations in other countries around the world. As I read and listened to various videos, my heart got sad. You see, they come, they work with the associations - usually jewelry or those that make things from material - developing very high quality products and take them back to America to sell. This is good. It definitely develops the skill and vision of most who would work within that association. Yes, they may be able to bring electricity to their home, yes, they may be able to keep their kids in school, the rent paid and food on the table and yes they may be making more money than they have ever dreamed of... BUT... 

.... what happens when the Americans stop buying?? 

THAT is my question. 

Monday morning I had the good fortune of going for coffee after dropping the kids at school with a dear friend here. She too has lived in Rwanda for a long time and we got talking. I shared what had been rolling around in my heart for the past couple of days. She immediately agreed. She shared two scenarios which had happened to her. 

1. In one of the refugee camps which she works, she had helped some of the women there create bags from the strapping on bales of clothing. They are sold for about $3 at the local market. One day, an American lady came and paid $20 for one, thinking she was being generous and helping by giving them a something extra. Result.... they then accused my friend for stealing their money and declared that their price was now $20 USD for one bag ... and they never sold another one. 

2. She had an association which was making cards for a man in the UK. He bought thousands each year and then all at once he stopped. That association is no longer making cards as the few thousand they sold locally was not enough to sustain them. 

It doesn't matter who is doing the buying... but it does matter who is doing the developing - is it being done so that whatever is happening will happen if you are not there. Otherwise people.... it's dependency at it's best or as my friend said... a form a colonization. 

I couldn't agree more.
God help us to do whatever we're doing well. That we can never be accused of 'using' people or creating dependency that cripples them for the rest of their life.

I just trust that the ministries and organizations I came in contact with this past week are thinking sustainably for these women - thinking about their lives, long after they have stopped buying from them.

1 comment:

Pete and Cindi Olsen said...

This is so well written, Jen. It's something that pulls at my heart (and Pete's too) as we have been involved in mission work in various places. Too often our North American made solutions are short sighted or uninformed. And then despite good intentions, we do more harm than good....thanks for sharing your heart.