Liberating The Poor From Their Need For Assistance: Charity With The End Goal In Mind
When you think of charity, you probably think of helping “the needy.” Those in need of care. Those who cannot do for themselves. Dependents.
In most cases, being a dependent should not be a permanent label. With our children, we guide them as they progress. We delight as they gradually gain the experience and skills to stand on their own. Unfortunately, when many think of those who are dependent upon charity, there’s little expectation of future independence. However, if you ask the beneficiaries, their own goal is almost always to be free from the bonds of dependence. Just like you, they want to provide for themselves and their families on their own. Viable aims to guide people out of charity, permanently, to seek their own success. We want to do more than give them something or teach them something. We want to connect them to independently thriving futures.
Do you remember the old metal merry-go-rounds? You only got the most out of your ride if someone else was willing to push you. When the pushing stopped; the ride stopped. It was a lot of fun, but frustrating if no one was willing to keep pushing you.
But what about when you learned to ride a bike? Do you remember the excitement when your parent let go and you were under your own control? The energizing freedom of transporting yourself! The pure enjoyment and power of being in control of your speed, your route, and your destination!
Let’s look at charity through the same lens. If the process depends on an organization’s ability to keep pushing, we already know what happens when the pushing stops. Somehow, though, starting the merry-go-round is often the finish line that many charities refer to as sustainable. Using our analogy, though, it’s easy to see that this isn’t self-sustaining.
We skip the merry-go-round and go straight to the bike. Of course a mentor is needed to make sure the bike is in working order and give instructions. Then with a little bit of experience, confidence, and self-motivation, the rider can try out some routes on their own. They can quickly learn to control their speed, direction, and destination – they can propel themselves. After a time, there is no need to return to their mentor. Not only is the mentor free to help others learn to ride, the new riders can begin teaching others as well.
Those old metal merry-go-rounds were a lot of fun when we were children. But learning to ride a bike is a useful skill with a lifelong benefit, and one that you can quite simply pass on to others.
At Viable, we look at charity in the same way.
Our goal is to liberate people from needing to be served.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if the needy were freed from their need? We believe that those served by charity can move to not only a place of independence, but a position of serving others. At Viable, we aren’t interested in pushing the merry-go-round. It doesn’t work. We want to see people ride off under their own power and direction. We want to help them achieve freedom.
Just imagine how many more people an organization could reach if they didn’t have to keep serving the same people.
Our intent isn’t to downplay the importance of any charitable work that is done with a servant heart. (We are also not addressing the inspiring work done by those who provide long term care for the physically or mentally disabled). There are certainly situations where the most pressing task is to care for people’s basic physical needs after trauma or devastation. Some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals are completely consumed by the stress of survival and their immediate needs must be met.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens
After that, however, the natural reaction is to ask “what’s next?” Then a person can begin to focus on tomorrow. When people are fed and safe, they usually, on their own, start to think about how to have a safer and healthier future.
Think of an operation or injury you or a family member have faced. The doctor will address your most immediate needs. Then the nurse takes over, providing comfort and guidance while you regain your strength. Then you go home with orders for physical therapy. The therapist expects progress, with your healing largely dependent upon your own motivation and effort. Therapy could last for weeks or months, depending on what you are recovering from and how much work you put in. If you’ve been in this situation, consider how much your progress relies on your mindset, and how a skilled therapist plays a part in that as well. With realistic expectations, progress can continue with self-directed exercises once therapy ends.
Think of Viable as a physical therapist working in situations of extreme pain and hopelessness. We know what is necessary for our “patients” to free themselves, and we have the experience, ability, and understanding to see them through it.
Many have tried to alleviate poverty with the most obvious solution – money. Experience shows us that while money is necessary to lift people out of vulnerability, it is business opportunities that will truly change the future. The key is to show people how to be profitable producers, rather than endless consumers. Of course money is required, so we help them earn it.
The idea of liberating populations from charity isn’t new. Books have been written about it and organizations have been formed to teach ministries how to “give a hand up, not a hand out.” Countless blogs address the dependence created by cyclic charity. Yet the true finish line remains unreached. The solution is not to simply teach a skill and make a connection to a Western audience willing to pay more for the product of a “business for good.” Western trends and economies change, shipping costs are high, and paying more for a good cause doesn’t always fit the budget or the style. As we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel and gathering that is required for charities like these to succeed can be suddenly halted, all while poverty continues to rise.
Markets exist all over the world, not just in the West.
All people are, by nature, consumers.
So Viable builds connections in local markets.
No matter where you are, there are community leaders. Good people everywhere want to see the poor among them rise up. We find those local servant leaders and we mentor them and help them to make connections. We do not pay them, but we help them learn how to pay themselves.
We mentor them as they build trust with local buyers. These local leaders employ farmers or laborers who will produce what the buyers want for a fair price at a set time. Within a few years, the leaders have developed and grown, and they no longer need our guidance. Their best workers increase production and suddenly have family businesses. In the most general terms, this process can be replicated all over the world. Markets everywhere depend on producers, sellers, buyers, and consumers. With guidance, vulnerable individuals domestically and abroad can learn how to participate in this naturally profitable cycle.
Because none of our overhead or administrative expenses come from your donations, Viable can achieve lasting results at an extremely low cost per individual.
The numbers show us that Viable only needs about $60 to change one person’s life forever. That’s $60 to create a self-sufficient farmer. A member of the market. A contributor to society. A producer. A family liberated from charity.
If you’re skeptical, you’re in the right place. That’s how we started, too. We also want you to be intrigued, hopeful, and hungry for more. Continue to learn more and ask questions – of us, and of others. What we are doing isn’t easy, and it’s not without failures, but the Greater Return is worth it every time.
Re-defining charitable success as when beneficiaries achieve freedom from both poverty and charity.