Change Yourself…Change The World.


Costa Rica
October 5, 2009, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Costa Rica, Pictures Post

Dear friends,

Pictures of Costa Rica are up! Check them out here.

Much love,

Brittany



The End of Costa Rica/Beginning of Paraguay
September 29, 2009, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Costa Rica, Paraguay

Dear friends,

One of the downsides to Latin America is the lack of internet. Unfortunately, I have not been able to upload for the past few days, because I couldn’t get online. I really wanted to post something before I left Costa Rica, but I haven’t had the time. Now I am safe and sound in Paraguay, but I still want to recount the last few details of Costa Rica before I move on.

Costa Rica… is amazing. I am missing all of the fruit already (especially avocado). This weekend, I went to a whole bunch of beaches with my good friend Rachel (who was on the CRC tour with me last year through Asia). We stopped shortly at Dominical, moved on to Bahaina (I think it was called?), this GORGEOUS ocean that no one really knows about. We ended our beach tour at Manuel Antonio, the most famous beach in Costa Rica- and I can understand why. The water is GORGEOUS, there are beautiful green islands not far from the shore, there are all kinds of waves and fun things to do- and there was fruit, fruit galore! White pineapple, yellow pineapple, coconut juice, watermelon… oh Costa Rica, you will not believe how much I miss you right now… I literally felt as though I was in paradise. If I was the kind of person who didn’t have a care in the world, I would move straight to Manuel Antonio and just live on that beach, all day, every day.

Back in Heredia, I said my goodbyes. I said farewell to my amazing homestay family, who I am truly going to miss. I said goodbye to my teachers at Global College, and the students, who I am missing right now. It was very hard for me to leave the Center. I hadn’t realized I had gotten so attached to it, but I have. The teachers are all so amazing, the students are all so interesting, and there is never a dull moment at our school. It was very hard for me to get up and leave it all, to move on to Paraguay.

And suddenly, here I am, now in Paraguay! I thought both planes were going to crash (mostly because I had the GENIUS idea of reading the 9/11 Commission Report right before my flight, which gives all the details on how someone can hijack a plane), but I finally made it here, at 2:15 AM. My VERY first impression getting off of the flight was not good. The immigration line takes about 10 minutes per person- I have never in my life gone through such a slow process. The conveyer belt congested full of baggage was nothing more than a tiny roll-around that had to be pushed by a Paraguayan man. I almost cried with relief when I saw my field advisor, who graciously came to pick me up with her son.

On the way to the intern house, she kept emphasizing on how there was nothing to do here. I immediately felt a little panicked. Here I was, coming to a place for an extended period of time, where there is absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go. I was staying in an intern house with only two other people, and one of the was leaving in a few weeks. I had no friends in Paraguay that I could count on for support. That and the internet aspect (which was severely limited until a few hours ago) made me feel incredibly shut off from everyone and everything. I don’t think that I have ever had such a bad first vibe from a country that I’ve made first contact with. My friend Rachel thinks that I am possibly suffering from bad culture shock, which could very well be the case. I suppose I’m just not used to it since I haven’t really felt it much from the other 13 countries I’ve gone to. It doesn’t help that I went to the supermarket today and there was such an absence of fruit that I felt a huge hole in my stomach. This is definitely not Costa Rica. I bought a HUGE avocado today, the largest I’ve ever seen, because I wanted to make guacamole (the kind that my host mother makes in Costa Rica, surprise surprise?). The avocado was so hard it wouldn’t even cut properly. Fail. As the day went on today I started feeling worse and worse… after finally connecting to the internet for a few hours and talking to friends, I have started feeling a little better. I suppose I should go unpack so I can feel as though I have ‘settled in.’

Paraguay? I have no idea what to think about it yet. I am not really sure what I am doing here. I hope that when my internship starts tomorrow I’ll remember.

Until then,

Brittany



Learning Another Language
September 23, 2009, 4:26 am
Filed under: Costa Rica

Hi friends,

I am back in Costa Rica! Pictures of my adventures in Panama will come soon.

It is strange to think that in one week I will be leaving for Paraguay, and that my adventures in Costa Rica will sadly end. I am not ready to leave this place yet. I have become used to all of the fresh fruit, salads with fresh, fresh avocado and hearts of palm at every meal, the platos del día in every restaurant, the Costa Rica center, the freshmen, the teachers, my homestay family… It is a beautiful place and I am so happy to be here. But it’s time to move on. Time to move on to Paraguay, to another adventure.

One of the things that I want to talk about is how proud I am of actually learning a new language. I have been traveling through Asia for the past year- I have learned tidbits of Mandarin, Thai, Hindi, Tibetan, Nepali, Bengali, and Turkish. I can say ‘Hello, how are you?’ in every one of these languages, and ‘Thank you,’ and probably ‘I am a girl’ or ‘I am 21 years old.’ I can say ‘I speak a little’ in Hindi, ‘My name is Ocean Cucumber’ in Thai, ‘No problem’ in Mandarin, ‘I am a student of Global College’ in Bengali, and a slew of terrible curse words in Tibetan. What I CAN’T do is actually converse in a language other in English.

Before I left the United States, I never really thought this a problem. The majority of people in the US speak one language, and only one language: English. Why necessarily learn another one?

Well, since I came out into the wide world, I have since then felt very ashamed and almost stupid for only speaking English. Pretty much everyone I have met outside of the US speaks at least one more language than their mother tongue. My entire Tibetan family is fluent in three languages. I have met a 24 year old who speaks five languages. These are completely normal people, leading normal lives- they are not translators, and they speak these languages because this is their way of life. Just this weekend in Panama, I went out to dinner with two girls from Switzerland. They both speak four languages. I feel that since I am American, I have been missing out on this crucial element my entire life, and now kicking myself for not catching on like the rest of them. Sure, we have languages in high school- but do we really learn them? When I compare my Spanish classes in high school to how I am actually learning Spanish right now- well, they were an absolute joke, uninspiring, and all about memorization rather than conversation.

That is why I am so proud to FINALLY be learning another language- I am so sick of being surrounded by so many people in my life that speak a whole bunch of languages fluently, while I speak only English. What kind of superiority do we hold in the US? Sure, English is the most common language spoken in the world, so we are lucky- but seriously? There is something SERIOUSLY lacking in the United States, and that is the lack of language learning.

I have been studying very hard this past month, and I am very proud to be able to converse and understand what others are saying (that is, if they speak slowly). I spent almost the entire weekend in Panama speaking Spanish. It is so amazing for me to be suddenly thinking in Spanish- for someone to ask me a question, and for me to answer it in my head in SPANISH! For me to look outside the window and just naturally think ‘ventana,’ and then realize that I just said the word ‘window’ in Spanish in my head. It makes me very, very happy.

Now let’s see if I can hold onto it.

Much love,

Brittany



The Problem with Traveling
September 17, 2009, 6:57 pm
Filed under: Costa Rica, Panama, Travel Tip

Is that there is only a certain amount of time you have to be in one place, and SO many things to choose from.

I am going to Panama for four days this weekend. I am very, very excited, because I have never been to Panama before, and who knows whether I’ll ever have such an experience again? This is how I go into traveling- ‘I may never have this experience again.’ The anticipation of being in a country for only four days makes me feel very rushed. I’ve been poring over Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring; Panama section.

I first planned this ridiculous itinerary that was somewhat affordable for my price range. I get into Panama at 10:50 AM tomorrow. Then I will run over to Casco Viejo to check out the old part of Panama, catch this crazy bus to the Mireflores Locks to see Panama Canal, and end the day in Mi Pueblitos, a kind of old town of Panama that sells indigenous crafts, food, and has dance performances. After that I would take an overnight bus to David, Panama’s second largest city (and for those of you that take overnight buses, you know I won’t be getting a lot of sleep). Then I would arrive in David at 3 AM (ouch, sketchy), and take an hour long bus at 6 AM to Boquete, this amazingly beautiful village (from what Lonely Planet describes at least…and let’s be honest here, can we REALLY trust Lonely Planet?) that has gorgeous views and lots of places to hike around. Then the next morning I would take a four hour bus to Bocas Del Toro, the ‘party’ place of Panama where apparently all of the gorgeous beaches in Panama are. I would hang out there for a day and half, finally taking an overnight bus back to Costa Rica.

First off, that entire itinerary sounds mouth-wateringly amazing. Here is the problem. A) There is no way that I can feasibly accomplish all of this and enjoy it at the same time, B) there are ALWAYS going to be problems that will pop up- my flight will be delayed and I won’t have time to see the parts of Panama City I really wanted to, the overnight bus to David will break down in the middle of nowhere (yes, this happened to me in India), Boquete is apparently cold at night and I will freeze with the small amount of clothes I have to take, etc. Will I see a lot of sights of Panama? Yes. Will I take lots of beautiful amazing pictures that look like I’m having the time of my life? Yes. Will I actually get to ENJOY being in the country? No. I will be majorly tired from driving around to a million places.

So, I decided to scratch the itinerary and just kick it in Panama City for the weekend. There’s a million things to do there, a million things to check out, and I feel that I need to give it at LEAST three day’s justice to see everything that I want. That gives me enough leisure time to actually get even a moment’s glimpse of what the life is like there, instead of always on the road.

This is the choice that I made. I wish that I had two, or three weeks to check out Panama. I wish I had a few days to check out Panama City, then I could leisurely make my way to David- then Boquete- then Bocas del Toro- and then even get to visit the indigenous Kuna islands in the south. But I have four days. And I am going to make the most of four days, even if that means just hanging out in Panama City.

In my opinion, this is the problem with traveling. When I was backpacking through Europe, I went to Switzerland for about four days. I totally panicked- ‘this could be my ONLY time in Switzerland, I have to see EVERYTHING, I have to check out Interlaken and Bern and Laussane and head over to Zurich-’ well guess what. It was my worst travel experience. I was trying to experience everything SO much, that I completely tired myself out and just ended up kind of passing out in my hostel room for most of the time that I was there. My iPod got stolen on the train. I felt homesick. I don’t want to have that kind of experience again.

I am going to be traveling around South America for six weeks, and I am having the same problem. I want to visit EVERY country on the continent. I know that this isn’t feasible at all. I’ve cut it down four countries. I’m sad that I won’t get to check out Bolivia, or Uruguay, or spend a lavishingly long amount of time in Brazil (let alone go there at all). I’m sad that I’m not going to see Easter Island in Chile (well mostly this is because the flight there was $800. Ridiculous.) But I would rather spend my time enjoying the fact that I AM in one country, rather than preparing myself to dash off to the next one.

So that is my tip of the day friends. Chill out and enjoy the place that you’re in.

Panama adventure starts tomorrow. I can’t wait.

Much love,

Brittany



An Apology Post is Required
September 15, 2009, 4:59 am
Filed under: Costa Rica

Hi friends,

Well, as I was wallowing in self-pity the past few days, my Auntie Debbie kind of gave me the kick in the butt I needed. She posted on my site and reminded me of all of the amazing opportunities I have in front of me. There are people who are fighting for their lives from Leukemia and Cancer. What about Patrick Swayze’s family, who has to deal with his sad passing? Every face that I see in LaCarpio (the slums in San Jose) remind me that I should not complain about the fact that I am 21 years old, traveling the world, and about to graduate with a kickass bachelor’s degree. What I’ve really been moaning about is the fact that I am overwhelmed with too much amazing information, that I have TOO much to learn, that I am oh-so-tired from applying to Fulbright and Rotary grants for this Kiva fellowship program or the Peace Corp, or to all of these competitive programs that will make my future even more amazing. There are people all over the world that would do anything to be able to even learn how to read.

Time to pack up the pity party and look at all of the amazing opportunities that I have in front of me. I am in Costa Rica, Latin America! I am going to Panama this weekend. I am staying with a homestay family and learning Spanish. I am constantly meeting new people and doing new things. I don’t know how I can possibly even mutter one negative sentence about my life under my breath when I have so many things going for me. No more whiny pity posts, I promise. Thanks for keeping me in check and keeping it in perspective. We all need it once in awhile.

Much love,

Brittany



Barrio Jesus Community and the World of Development
September 12, 2009, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Costa Rica

Note:

This is originally a reflection paper I did while attending Global College’s Independent Study Semester Program. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here around the estimated date written. I thought readers would find these informational, educational, and entertaining. Please note that these posts are much longer than the usual ones, since they are papers.


One of the first projects that I participated in with the freshmen at the Costa Rica Center was volunteering in the Barrio Jesus community, a town about twenty minutes away from Heredia. We met at the Costa Rica Center in the morning and split into groups; I was in a group of about six people that was assigned to paint a bench at a bus stop in Barrio Jesus. We were given about two hours to complete this project. When we originally started the project, and I saw the colors of paint (light orange for the bench and white for the walls), I envisioned a perfectly painted, bright and spacious area for people to relax and chat while waiting for their bus. I jokingly said that after we were finished, I would feel comfortable enough to feel safe there, as if two bright colors would make it so that I wouldn’t be mugged. But as we started our project and continued it to the end, I came to feel a lot of frustration that I hadn’t anticipated, and I feel as if I can compare the experience I had to the importance of experience in development.

First off, we where a bunch of well-intentioned, passionate, and caring people who came to the situation preparing to make a change, for everything to be done absolutely perfectly, for all of the cracks to be filled, and for the paint job to be flawlessly executed. But the truth is, we WERE inexperienced, and we weren’t professional painters. We may have wanted to help and create hope and difference to those that would be visiting the bus stop that we painted; we may have wanted them to see a cleaner community- but since all of us didn’t have adequate experience as painters, it ended up being much more disastrous than anticipated. We decided to paint the bench first with an orange layer, and then realized later that when we painted the wall white afterwards, the white paint dripped all over the bench, making our previous work unnecessary (a waste of time and paint, which proved to be a problem later because we ran out of orange paint). We didn’t have completely adequate tools to work with; we were given rollers, but the concrete was crumbling, and it was impossible to paint in between the cracks. Even when our supervisor Pablo got us more paint and smaller paintbrushes, we couldn’t fully paint in the cracks, making the wall look strange, as if a layer of whitewash had been applied over a dark color. Then, we had the issue of time. We were going to lunch soon, and this was all of the time we could spend on this project; and we weren’t finished.

It was at this point in time that I started to feel incredibly frustrated, because while the bench may have looked a tad bit cheerier than before, it was sloppy, unorganized, there was paint all over the ground and on the orange bench, and the walls didn’t look finished. At that point I wished that we hadn’t even painted the bench at all, and maybe we had left it even worse off than when we had started. Sure, the bench might have been sherbet and white, but it was impossible to not notice the shoddy work. I felt I was letting down the very people I was trying to help. Many of those from the Barrio Jesus community were coming and going from the bus stop while we were working, and watched our progress. I saw the smiles on their faces, and in the beginning I felt so proud that we were helping their community, even if only painting a bus stop. But as time started to run out, my thoughts turned over. I felt that the smiles these people gave me was deserving of a fine and finished product, one that we had taken time and care over; and I wouldn’t be fulfilling that promise for them. I felt as though I had cheated them with my own expectations.

We came up with a solution to one problem; with the white drops all over the bench, we decided to creatively splatter the rest of the bench with white to make it look more fun and interesting. In the end this proved to be a good idea. We hurried to finish our job as Pablo called us all for lunch. I looked at our finished product. It was not what I had expected it to be, it was not finished or professional looking, and I was not sure if we had left it in a better place than we had before- just different- but it was something.

I feel that the Barrio Jesus experience was a lesson that needed reinforcing right before I start my Independent Research Project. A person can have all of the passion in the world for wanting to alleviate poverty and truly make a difference in other’s lives. And while passion is the key ingredient in that factor, you also need to have experience. Because we weren’t professional painters, we didn’t know how to organize and go about painting the bench; therefore we wasted time, paint, and ended up with something completely different than we originally imagined. In the same sense, I feel that it is incredibly important to analyze, study, and learn as much as possible before going into the field yourself or starting an NGO. Trial and error when trying to help people is very risky business, because if you fail, then you’re also failing the people or the community that you’re trying to help, possibly leaving it in a worse state than before. But another important lesson I learned is if you DO mess up, there are some ways to cover it up. Before we decided to splatter the bench with white paint, I was incredibly frustrated with our substandard work. With the idea of creatively decorating the bench, not only did the students come together to brainstorm a solution, but it ended up looking even better than it probably would have with just a solid coat of orange paint.

In conclusion; just because we are passionate about helping people, does not mean that we had the experience or means to do so; just as we didn’t have enough paint, we don’t always have enough resources; just as we were going to lunch soon, we don’t always have the time we wish to do a project right and correctly; just as painting proved to be a much more difficult concept than we thought, there will be unforeseen challenges in the field; and just as we came up with the solution to splatter the bench with white, it takes creativity, ingenuity, and cooperation to come up with a solution to those unforeseen challenges.

The finished product.



Pimp of the Day
September 11, 2009, 12:54 am
Filed under: Costa Rica, Travel Tip

Check out my good friend’s blog, Lady The Tramp. I don’t know why I haven’t pimped it out before, considering I have read it for over a year now and it gives sound advice. If you are a female traveler looking to get around on a low budget, this is the perfect website for you. Check out her archives to get all of the good stuff.

She also has a great post about child beggars that so adequately describes an earlier post I wrote. It makes me wonder why I bother writing a blog at all… her words are so much more insightful than mine.

One of my close friends arrived in Costa Rica today. I am so happy!

Much love,
Brittany



PURAVIDA
September 9, 2009, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Costa Rica

Pejibaye, a Costa Rican fruit.

Here is to starfruit, anona fruit, empanadas, mi madre’s tacos, empanadas, tortillas con queso, jugo, arroz, pollo, vegetales, ensalada, plaintains, to hearts of palm that taste SO AMAZINGLY GOOD here, and all of the other amazing delicious fresh food I have been eating here in Costa Rica. Today I consumed so much delicious fruit at the Costa Rica center and then dined on a traditional lunch of rice, beans, peppers, chicken, and salad complete with pimiento- my body is definitely enjoying all of the fresh food.

Here is to my second time around applying to the Peace Corp, which I am feeling so much more positive about. I have a feeling. It is going to happen. I am going to get in.

Here is to my Spanish teacher I’ve been with for the past few weeks telling me he thinks by the end of October I’ll be fluent in Spanish.

Here is to my amazing Independent Study Semester and all of the beautiful freedom I have. I am so proud of what I am doing and that I am doing all of it myself.

Here is to all of the new friends and fellow students I have met at the Costa Rica center, who are all so amazing, intelligent, and interesting people.

Here is to my homestay house, where I live like a queen.

Here is to Costa Rica. Here is to LIFE! I am so happy.

¡PURAVIDA!

Much love,

Brittany



LaCarpio
September 8, 2009, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Costa Rica

Note:

This is originally a reflection paper I did while attending Global College’s Independent Study Semester Program. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here around the estimated date written. I thought readers would find these informational, educational, and entertaining. Please note that these posts are much longer than the usual ones, since they are papers.

Names have been changed to in the interest of protecting individual privacy. I would also like to note before starting, that the woman who created this organization is AMAZING, and I highly admire and respect her. I learned a lot from her in a short period of time, and she has done so many unbelievable things for the community of LaCarpio. I am merely critiquing one aspect of her organization which I found puzzling.


About a week ago I visited LaCarpio, one of the poorest regions in San José, Costa Rica. A teacher of Global College and former Peace Corps recruiter, Macy, took me with her one day to visit LaCarpio and to tour her organization she had started. Upon first glance it was apparent that the resources, time, and effort it took to put together the organization was enormous, and it seemed that Macy had one-handedly done everything. The results were amazing; the pre-primary classroom she had created was spacious and beautiful; the kitchen was spotless; the reading room was gorgeously decorated; and the entire place had a beautiful charm to it.

Part of Macy’s foundation is a start-up entrepreneurial business for women, which is the main reason why she took me the organization. Since I am interested in microfinance, Macy wanted me to see an alternative business project to compare and contrast the negative aspects of microfinance. On the bus rides to LaCarpio, we discussed in-depth the problems of microfinance and her aversion to it. She feels that microfinance is set up in a way for poor people to be continually taking out loans that they cannot pay back. She feels that people should just be GIVEN money instead of having a loan. In her opinion, people are greedy enough, and microfinance is more about capitalizing on greed, and on profits that poor people don’t necessarily have. She feels that microfinance is based around capitalism, and why play into a system that has place these people in poverty in the first place? When describing the women entrepreneurs at her organization, she said, “I’m not the loaner and they’re not the borrowers- it’s a partnership.” Her role is to give them ideas and they figure out whether it works or not.

Macy took me to one room in her organization that is used for these women to start a business, and introduced me to two women (of the seven women in the business) who were currently working. I looked around the room at their projects. They make jewelry, decorational items, and have worked on a project on making angel dolls for an organization. Their biggest project that they are currently working on is putting together bags to sell.

Macy explained to me her ideas and approach behind the business. She gave them the money to start up the bag business; she bought them sewing machines, materials, found donations from the United States to help (such as sewing materials and books), and hired a teacher for classroom instruction so the women could learn how to make the bags. After the initial start-up help, it is now up to them to manage their own business. They pay $50 a month to Macy for the room to create and sell bags ($1 per woman per week); contributing to the $350 a month Macy pays for the entire place for rent.

I asked Macy about the bags that they were currently creating. The bags sell for 11,000 colones, or 20 dollars. Every time a bag is sold, the group gets 5 dollars, and the woman who made the bag gets 15 dollars. Each woman has to pay 5 dollars for a start-up kit to make the bag; this way, it is self-sustaining. All in all, a woman usually makes a profit of 10 dollars (a little under 6,000 colones) for creating the bag.

I then asked Macy how much 10 dollars helps the women. She said with 6,000 colones they can get a bag of rice, beans, oil, salt, and coffee- generally enough to last a family two days.  Others are saving the money- one is saving for a washing machine and a sewing machine. When I asked her how the bag business was doing, she told me that this past summer, they sold 113 bags in June and July. I concluded that the bag business is not enough for them to live off of, but it is an extra source of income. All of the women in the business are also teachers at the organization and they get paid 30,000 colones a month for running the education program.

All in all, it seemed like a solid idea. Then I asked Macy about the target audience of the bags.

She stated that the bags are currently targeted to volunteers that are coming through to see her organization, since the bags don’t sell well in the market. She commented that most volunteers buy the bag when they realize ‘what is means.’

I immediately didn’t like this idea at all. First off, I was now put in a position while I was there, as if I had to buy the bag, or else I didn’t care enough about the project or what they were trying to accomplish. It was a subtle hint as if I didn’t buy the bag, then I wasn’t supporting them. Then I balked at the idea that this bag, which was made out of cloth and Styrofoam, was worth $20. To me, this bag was not worth anything near $20- if I was in desperate need of such a bag on the street, I would’ve maybe paid at the most $3. I was put in another position as a student, who doesn’t have a lot of money to spare, to pay $20 for a bag I wasn’t interested in buying.

While I understand that it was completely up to my own imperative to buy this bag and I had the power to buy one or not, I immediately knew that if I walked out of that room, I would feel like a person that didn’t really care about the organization or the women. I would feel like a tourist, rather than a person who was so motivated in alleviating poverty. I realized with a bit of relief that I didn’t have enough money with me. When I hastily apologized to Macy, she immediately said that I could pay her back tomorrow. I guess she missed the hint, or if she did, she was trying to hold me accountable for the fact that I was interested in this organization, and therefore should purchase a bag. I ended up purchasing a bag that I wasn’t interesting in buying, and didn’t need. I purchased the bag out of guilt, not because I thought that it was a worthy product.

And this is precisely what I didn’t like about it. I bought the bag BECAUSE I felt sorry for them; because I knew that they didn’t have any money, and that by buying the bag I was providing them with food for their family. To me, this is even worse that just flat out giving them money. I am now paying them for a product that I don’t care about; I am only paying them out of pity. Why make the product at all then? As Macy stated earlier, she said that people buy the bags because after they realize what it means; it means that these women will have a small fraction of a better life. But this means precisely that all of the sales garnered for their bag business are out of pity, not out of their entrepreneurial skills. To me, this seems completely backwards to what the project is supposed to be about.

Buying bags out of pity doesn’t teach these women empowerment. It is the same principle upon receiving donations, except to me, it feels even worse. It bothers me that a business would be conducted based on pity, not on the quality of the product. How does this teach women about entrepreneurship? In the real world, people would never buy this bag for $20. Why give them these women a sense of disillusionment, as if they are creating a truly profitable product, when the design concept and price is clearly flawed?

The most important question that I had to ask myself was, how could these women EVER make a self-sufficient business without Macy? If all of their income is based on volunteers through Macy’s organization, then they will never be able to expand their business or eventually open up their own store. If their only income comes from volunteers, then how can they move outside of that realm?

This is why I believe micro-finance is more empowering than this project. With micro-finance, the product you are making is based solely off your own ingenuity- no one is FORCED to buy the product, it is solely on whether it is a good idea and it sells. THIS is true entrepreneurship- no one is giving you a handout or buying your products out of pity. Yes, I believe there are some downsides to microfinance- because there are times when the enterprises fail, such as a well-intentioned person making these sort of bags- but that is the beauty of it. It is all trial and error. If the bag doesn’t sell, then the creator knows that they are not making a quality product, and they fix it.

In my opinion, the downside of giving is that oftentimes you are making people feel smaller than you. You are ultimately giving a handout because you pity them. Giving someone money is like telling them they have no value, no skills, and no intelligence or creativity to make this money themselves. They have to rely on you. Creating a work space for a women entrepreneurial business and providing all of the start-up materials, while quite a noble idea in theory, leaves no room for the trial and error that business need to truly learn what is marketable and what is not. Targeting products to volunteers because the products won’t sell in the local marketplace is creating a dependency on the organization, rather than allowing the business to expand and grow through the trial and error.

There are upsides to microfinance, and to giving loans. When you are giving someone a loan, you are saying ‘I DO believe in you. I DO believe that you are smart and talented enough to create your own business, and I DO believe that you can pay back that money.’ It is creating empowerment in people. It is creating positive expectations. Rather than patting someone on the head and saying ‘poor you, here’s a ticket to the soup kitchen,’ you are saying ‘why don’t you START a soup kitchen?’ It is asking poor people to use their talents and creativity and intelligence and knowledge of local resources to help THEMSELVES- and if and when they do help themselves, they have no one but themselves to thank. While I greatly appreciate many aspects of Macy’s approach and the things she is doing for these women, I think that ultimately, micro-finance is the better way to go for entrepreneurs.




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