When I wake up every day, before putting my glasses on, I think “let’s see what happens today, let’s hope I can learn a little more today.
Forgive me for starting with these words, but I would like to make sure I don’t consider myself one professional of helping and, being so, I can only share with you the limited phase of the things I have seen in my way.
After travelling throughout some countries in Asia, I have been living in Nepal for 10 years, trying to better understand poverty and its causes, so I think what I am going to try to explain, can also happen in many countries in the world.
In my opinion, when we start to analyze the poverty one person is living in, we actually find that his or her situation of poverty is the sum of a series of basic shortages and that, if we are able to understand the origin of each of these shortages, maybe, I repeat maybe, we would be in the condition of finding the suitable solutions for each one of them. It is quite similar to what a doctor would do when treating one disease: he investigates its origin but, in the meanwhile, he can also perform with the most new solutions available for each situation.
For example, some of these lacks that we understand as poverty can be the lack of: Public health, education, food, clothes…, and each person has lacks that we can be aware of when we talk to him/her.
On my opinion, this should be the first step, because if we want to solve one problem, the best thing is to understand it and so, we will be able to find much more efficient solutions.
I know very well that the situation of poverty has different analysis and solutions but, concerning to me, life has led me to what I call direct help, meaning one help getting more personalized all the time.
There is another unavoidable condition to obtain results when eradicating a situation of poverty: the person must wish to go out of it, too. When I say person, I also mean a community or a country.
I often ask myself: Why here, in Nepal, people don’t help each other?
A long silence.
After this silence, the first answers appear, they are normally situations that have taken place, and many of these answers coincide in the fact that one of the important reasons why people don’t help each other, is the great distrust existing in them and the feeling that each one must take care of his/her own family.
I explain to them that helping is like sowing seeds and that if seeds are sowed, fields give their own fruits later. But, to be honest, they look at me as if saying: this is what you say, but in our society, things do not work like that, since if one tree grows from your seed, other people will come to rob the fruits.
And after all these years searching for poverty origin, I think to understand, but just as an intuition, that poverty is born from human selfishness.
Poverty cannot be eradicated just by sending money as if it was rain, as rain waters the fields, because if there are no seeds… what will it grow? And where is the generosity seed?
I am sorry to disappoint you if you thought I was going to give you a more complex explanation, but in my opinion, the essence of this entire network is in the lack of generosity towards the person who is beside us, the person we can see and help.
Help should be like fertilizer for a tree but… what happens if there is no tree?… and if there is no wish of growing, what do we expect to see growing?
It is true that we can eliminate many lacks with money, we can give solution to specific problems and we can even achieve that one poor person become a wealthy one. But, honestly, turning a poor one into a person with money is easy. But turning a poor into a generous person with the others is more difficult.
If we really want to eradicate poverty in the world, we will not achieve it just with money, because it has been intended already (or at least I want to believe so) and, so far, we have not succeed.
While travelling throughout Asia, I knew different people who worked on humanitarian help and I often asked them to synthesize their experience. Each one of them offered me his/her best advise.
One of the advices that I will always remember was: Toni, there are people who live to help poor ones and people who lives from poverty. Whenever you want to know if you are doing it alright, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself which side is yours.
The picture coming to my mind shows a mother breastfeeding her child. Not only does she give milk to the baby or just love. Both things are necessary so that the child can grow and become strong so that he/she can walk and run by himself/herself.
We have lost our training for listening, for understanding, for getting deep into other people’s needs… we have given them money, but we have not offered them our time, so our help has not been complete and it is been missed until we get back to the beginning: More money.
The concept of direct help is based on that: when you are trying to help somebody, you are helping that person. And that can be done anywhere, any time, in any culture. Because the real thing is helping, no matter if we help only one person, it is a good job and a source of experiences.
I know a woman that has been sitting on a little chair, by her husband, for five years; she takes care of him and her daughters in a hospital where each one must supply the foods and medicines he/she needs. In a country where Social Security does not exist and where, if you cannot pay your health cares and nobody is able to help you pay them… you just die.
And I wonder: Is it necessary to cross oceans in order to help a poor if the poor is by our side?
It is true that money coming from outside helps the marginalized, but if we really wish to erase poverty, we must do it mainly from inside, with our help to people from our own country…, that would be a wonderful change.
There probably are other ways to help, less direct but more efficient. Perhaps one of them would be forgetting weapons and taking mattock.
I am convinced that if selfishness could be turned into generosity, poverty would be over since, in all the countries I’ve known so far, where there are poor people, there are also others who could help their neighbors and relatives.
So it is not exclusively money coming from outside which will eliminate poverty in the world, but there must exist an important change of direction and thus, instead of using so many efforts on asking for money to people living in rich countries to give it to the poor living in the poor ones, we should motivate rich people living in poor countries so that they also help their poor ones.
But while we don’t see this to happen, while the rich ones objective is to make money, the ones who always suffer will keep on suffering and it will be specially their children and women the ones who stretch their hand begging for bread, looking for compassion beyond their borders.
Toni Aguilar founded TDHF (The Direct Help Foundation) on 2000, after a journey to Nepal where he met some children who struggled to make end meet in the streets of Karmandu. They subsisted as he could, with no future in sight. After having his family and closest friends’ support, Toni decided to start what today has become the direct help: TDHF, one organization that is realistic in its projects and that has a high level of solidarity. In Inspira, we have thought that the wonderful task developed by TDHF, with which Fundació Roger Torné is collaborating, turn him into a voice with authority, despite he thinks the contrary, to speak about this great challenge that countries say to face: the eradication of poverty. We publish it today, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.