Day Ten: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell”
It’s our final day in Nicaragua and I’m trying my best to process all that we’ve seen and heard.
Much like our trip around this beautiful country, my thoughts have come full circle. It all comes back to the first lines of this file “What Bread for the World Hopes to Achieve In its 2009 Offering of Letters” document.
“The world has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. But the way our country delivers aid to the world’s poorest nations is still being driven by the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. In 2009, Bread for the World members will urge Congress to rework U.S. foreign assistance to make it a more effective in reducing poverty.”
But what does that mean? Is our goal for all developing nations to be like America in every way or to do what’s best for them- to achieve success as they define it? We’re a nation that leaves 45 million people uninsured, so we have to be very careful on how we advise others to run their country.
I love the United States, but when 1 in 10 Americans are on food stamps, we’ve got some work to do at home as well.
At the same time I can’t help but think about what Belinda Forbes from Accion Medica Christiana said about cholera in the eastern coast of the country. During a cholera epidemic, aid workers tried to get people to wash their hands after using the bathroom to fight the spread of the disease. The locals were convinced that their sickness had nothing to do with microscopic bacteria, but rather it was over-shrimping that was making the sea gods angry, thus causing everyone to get sick. But navigating cultural differences is a blog post in itself.
Edward Abbey once said “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Development has to lead to somewhere better.
One thing I liked so much about AMC’s work in Matagalpa was that people came to them. After seeing how well pilot projects were working, locals formulated proposals and brought them to the Nicaraguan NGO, rather than some European or American aid organization imposes an ill-fitting agenda. Church World Service funds helped start their work, but now they are truly country owned and country driven.
In a similar way MCA in Nicaragua (Cuenta Reto Del Milenio) has partners, not beneficiaries. Even this classification of aid recipients highlights how they work for and with Nicaraguans who seek to do for themselves- setting up a system that will be there long after the program has ended.
Brian P. Duss is the multimedia associate at Bread for the World.
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