How Can you Make Poverty History if you haven’t seen the Poverty?

Well I got a response. Just the one. To the several dozen letters I wrote to all those who aspire to Make Poverty History. I won’t reveal precisely who wrote – not Bono or Damon or Mr Brown – a mere minion, but he was – at least – kind enough to take the time to write.

Thanks for taking the time to write a letter so well rooted in your deep experience and love of Africa.  My name is x and I’m the director of y,  Thanks for the advice contained in your message.  I think many people around the world have begun to realize the many failures of “western aid” to Africa.   I would like to think that our project will improve the lives of particularly women and children, while also allowing people to be healthy enough to engage in the sorts of work that it sounds like you and your husband are providing for people

Alot of placatory blah, blah, really.

But it was the writer’s post script that I thought most telling:

I’ve never had the pleasure of spending time in your part of the world, but have always wanted to. 

Hmmm. Perhaps – given what he does – he ought to.

18 Responses to “How Can you Make Poverty History if you haven’t seen the Poverty?”

  1. Roberta Says:

    Hmm. I wonder if Bob can fix it?

  2. iota Says:

    Yes, I think Bob is our man. Aided by the ever-efficient Wendy of course.

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Clever girls, very, very clever. Anybody got his cell number … oh, I know, I’ll ask Wendy …

  4. Potty Mummy Says:

    The problem is of course that Bob will be far too busy sorting out problems back home (Wendy getting it together with her gym instructor, Muck being stalked by paparazzi looking for dirt – pardon the pun – and Dizzy being accused of dabbling in Class A drugs, or similar), that you will end up with Spud.

    And I think – by your own account – that he’s already there, working for Make Poverty History.

  5. MisssyM Says:

    Ooohh that’s bad. What a thing to admit to given his position.

  6. iota Says:

    I feel I want to be fair to the man, and say he probably travels to the bits of the world where he has projects to oversee. He couldn’t possibly travel to the whole of every country, let alone every continent. If I had a project in Devon, for example, you wouldn’t necessarily expect me to get to know Northumberland or East Anglia. But (a) it is pretty indicative of not-very-joined-up management, and (b) he is unwise to admit it in a letter – and it’s very telling that he can’t sense that.

    I’m impressed with the speed of reply, and that you didn’t just get a standard letter. So they did at least read yours carefully.

  7. Roberta Says:

    Welcome to America Iota. 🙂

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Do you know Potty Mummy, I had never considered actually that he might be so tied up back home. But you’re right; he has a lot to deal with – what with Wendy and gym instructor and Muck and Dizzy toppling off the rails. See what happens to us when we are obliged to read too much Bob …

    Misssy M – that’s waht I thought.

    I know Iota; he can’t be in two (or more) places at one time and he did write back, and that’s a very good thing. But he was unwise to make such an admission to big mouth blog writer …

  9. The Good Woman Says:

    HI Mem
    A quick note to let you know that (unlike the Director) I am in Africa. And that we found a pillow in the boot of our rental car…

  10. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Yay! Hooray! Welcome to my bit of Africa! We missed you. xx

  11. R. Sherman Says:

    It is a fundamental truth: The farther away one is from a problem, the less likely it is that one will hit upon a solution. Stated differently, its difficult to address issues in Africa in between trying to reservations at one’s favorite cafe in Soho.


  12. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    How true, Mr Sherman. And how selfish of me: of course the man must eat in Soho instead of worrying about itsy bitsy problems in Africa.

  13. Primal Sneeze Says:

    I think many people around the world have begun to realize the many failures of “western aid” to Africa.

    *Expletives deleted*! I was being taught this in college 20 years ago for f**k sake! 20 years! And still nothing’s changed.

  14. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    And I don”t expect it will have done in another twenty, Primal. Sorry to be such a cynic but I’m not convinced of the signs so far.

  15. Tom Says:

    Just a thought: Why don’t you enter the employ of one of these organizations? It would solve many issues and provide rich writing material.

  16. Patsycake Says:

    OK – so what can WE do ? We, the ordinary citizens in the rich countries?

    What is your opinion of Micro-finance – small loans made to entreprenuers in developing nations. Is this as good as it is cracked up to be? CARE is also doing this. Do those people really get the money?

    How do the tobacco farmers that your husband oversees get their funding? Is it from corporate or private funding

    I just got a t-shirt at a peace (anti-war) rally in Washington DC – it says “Quit bitching and start a revolution”.

    I’m ready! What can I do?

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Tom – they wouldn’t have me. No degree. Never written a feasability study or thesis in my life and have bloodycolonial stamped all over me; not a chance.

    Patsycake. I don’t know. I do know that micro finance has been hugely successful in India, but its longevity here has yet to be proved. It can work and it does work. But not enough. And that’s not only financiers’ fault, often those at the receiving end let themselves down by now coming up with the goods or not understanding the ramifcations of the loan. I do think microfinancing is more sustainable than aid – of course it is – and better for the growth of the economy and health of morale. The tobacco farmers are funded by the tobacco companies, they are loaned the necessary for inputs and they pay back once their crops are in. They are also supported in agronomy and transport; they don’t have to ferry their crop – transport goes in to collect it.

  18. kifimbocheza Says:

    oh dear. You couldn’t make it up………..

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