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August 10, 2011

As I was explaining to someone recently, sometimes ideas explode into my life like fireworks and light it up.  Then I am left to utilize the image seared into my brain to try to shape something that in some way approximates the beauty of the original idea.  I want to float one such idea with all of you.  Perhaps you may see something in it.  If you do, or even if you don’t, please send me your thoughts.  I hope you will also talk to others about it, refer them to this post and encourage them to respond.

Remember, however, that this is just an idea at this point, and developing it further is dependent on a number of things.  First, I need to pray about it a lot more; hopefully God will provide direction.  Your prayers would be of benefit here as well.  Second, I need a considerable amount of feedback from a lot of people to flesh out the idea and to gauge interest.  Third, I need to talk to some of my Haitian friends to determine if they would be receptive to such a plan and to see if they can see any potential pitfalls that I can’t.

It is no secret that Haiti has a host of problems and a seemingly endless catalogue of needs.  For me it is one thing to consider the needs of the people in general, and quite another to come face to face with people in need.  It is one thing to know that a far better medical system is badly needed in this country.  It is another to look into the eyes of a young man knowing he will die if his medical problem is not addressed very soon.  It is one thing to know that this country has a housing crisis of major proportions.  It is another to sit with a man as he tells me that he, his wife and his children are living in substandard conditions, and despite his tireless efforts he is unable to provide a good home for them.  It is one thing to know that this country requires development in order to address its staggering unemployment/underemployment problem.  It is quite another to watch a man with skills and potential forced to labor day after day in a mindless job because he cannot access minimal financing to launch a little business to utilize his talents to better provide for himself and his family.

Solving the big problems at times appears impossible.  The needs are so monumental, the problems so entrenched, that no solution seems adequate.  Efforts to address these problems invariably seem to get mired in a quagmire of politics and logistics.  But addressing individual needs is very manageable.  To provide adequate housing for all Haitians would cost billions of dollars and would be a logistical nightmare.  But to provide adequate housing for a single family is simple.

But if I were to take this approach, how would I choose whom to help when so many are in need?  To try to identify those most in need would probably consume far more dollars than it would take to house them.  There seems to be no way to be “fair,” if you even believe such in a concept.  Perhaps the only route available is to try to meet the needs I see where I am.  Most charities operate on that basis:  identify someone you believe needs help and do something.  Hopefully what you do really helps; unfortunately, often it does not.

What if I could do something to help an individual or a few individuals help themselves?  What if, to resort to a well-worn phrase, I could give them not a handout but a hand up?  What if I could help someone with the understanding that they in turn would contribute to helping someone else?  What if you could partner with me in doing this?  This is hardly an original idea, but I think it deserves consideration.

To offer an example, what if you could contribute a few dollars into a fund that would go to helping a young man start a business?  As that business developed, the man could contribute a portion of his profits back into the fund to help rebuild it so that it could provide like help to another.  As the fund grew it could be helping many simultaneously and at the same time be regenerated by many.  I am not talking huge money here.  Many people in Haiti would be able to start something with a few hundred dollars.  The problem is that that represents a significant portion of a year’s income to most.  “So what?” you may ask.  “Many people invest years of potential earnings to start a business. “  I certainly couldn’t argue that.  But in Canada if someone has a job, they are able to get a loan to start a business.  That is not the case here.  It is my understanding that business assets are the only collateral banks here will consider.

So what guarantees would there be that someone who received the benefit of the fund would put money back in?  None.  But are there any guarantees that anyone who borrows to finance a business will repay those loans?  Sure, the bank can seize assets, but we all know that many times by the time a loan goes into default there’s not much left to seize.  I believe social pressure might be an incentive; if others could not get help because a beneficiary of the plan would not contribute, I think they might have something to say to him.  Anyway, I don’t think what I am talking about here is loans.  I’m not sure at this point.

When you contribute to a charity, do you know where it goes?  Do you know if it is used well?  Do you know if it does any good at all?  Maybe, but probably not.  What if you received a newsletter describing how your money had been invested and relating how your money changed people’s lives?

I don’t know if I’m building a case or not.  I think basically I am throwing out an idea and looking for input to put flesh on the bones.  Maybe the idea isn’t worth the effort it took for me to write this and for you to read it.  But just maybe it is.  You tell me.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. kim evans permalink
    August 12, 2011 1:00 pm

    Hi Barry:

    This is something l could see happening.,,,,one family at a time

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