I’ve seen poverty, but never experienced it. Living in Bombay (as it was called back in 1985) the drive from the airport to downtown involved passing by shanty-towns and beggars with limbless babies pressing themselves against the window of the air-conditioned Mercedes as we stopped at the traffic lights. We were always told not to give money because of reasons which I really don’t want to publish as I have no way of verifying.
Working with the folk from the Scarman Trust (now 2QAB) in recent years has given me a little more insight into the thoughts of how we can help with poverty here in the UK. It’s not just about a lack of money and personal effects but also about communities with a lack of power and control over their environment.
What was clear from working with the team was that pity and outside consultants were not what helped communities. It was primarily about providing members of those communities with the skills and knowledge they needed to take control, the skills they needed to transfer the knowledge they have around the community. Too often they had seen well meaning government funded agencies descend on a community, spend money, depart and leave the community in the same situation of deprivation and lack of control as before.