This little shack could be an image from the latest child hunger advertisement. The dust, the raggedy tarps, the garbage strewn about, the destroyed structure in the background. And the “normal” reaction may be, “I feel so sorry for whoever’s this is” or “we need to do something about this.”
It was my reaction when I’d see images like this at the beginning of this CiH journey.
Let’s call it what it is- Pity: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others (definition from Google).
There are plenty of instances of suffering and misfortunes in the Ng’ombe Compound in which we work, but friends, this isn’t one of them.
Here’s the real story behind this photo:
This is Patricia’s grocery stand. Patricia is a mother of 3, a graduate of our Skills Training Program, and the designer/producer of many of our top-selling bags. She’s sharp, she’s shy, she’s kind, and she has the best chuckle around.
Patricia worked her butt off (for lack of a better term) for this grocery stand, for this little shack that might evoke feelings of pity if we’re not careful.
She applied for a microloan after she completed our skills training program. She received a good chunk of cash after she passed a very challenging business class and exam. She then had to manage that cash, only investing in her business (like building THIS stand from scratch), keeping up-to-date business records audited by our staff every 2 months with a home visit at her house. She had to and successfully did repay the microloan within 6 months of receiving it.
In a society where much of life is day-to-day survival, this accomplishment is pretty miraculous, and one that doesn’t come easy.
This little shack is actually Patricia’s Beautiful Grocery Stand. This is her trophy of hard work, dedication, and relentlessness. This is her symbol of hope, of redemption, of self-sustainability. This stand means food on the table, rent paid, kids in school, and a happy, healthy family.
Friends, let’s reframe our thinking when it comes to the vulnerable- the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. What may not be our Western standard of success could actually be the greatest success in an impoverished society- one of self-sustainability and entrepreneurship in the form of a roadside grocery stand.
Patricia doesn’t want your pity. She wants your pat on the back. She wants your celebration. Let’s give it to her.