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What is poverty?

What is poverty?

Our answer to this question determines the solutions we propose. When we define poverty not only as financial, economic and material deficiency but as a complex of social and emotional needs that deprive human beings of a life of dignity rooted in brokenness of the foundational relationships with God, self, others, and creation, then all of us are poor.

For economically poor people, these broken relationships include feelings of shame, inferiority, and voicelessness resulting in a mentality unable to be stewards over their own communities. For the economically rich, these broken relationships manifest themselves in feelings of superiority and materialism (leading to the enslavement of dealers at the beginning of the trade chain) and our compensation through for example workaholism and eating disorders. Therefore, to humbly embrace our own mutual brokenness is crucial to poverty alleviation so that we can truly help others without hurting them and ourselves.

The often in development aid applied needs-based approach communicates the devastating message that only the economically wealthy can save the poor and that the problems of the community can only be realized by outside help. In this perception of development aid both parties become poorer in the process: the economically poor become more and more paralyzed from taking initiative to steward their own communities, and the economically wealthy are further confirmed in the erroneous claim of having all the answers.

Such an approach also fails to take into account the particularities of each cultural setting and deniers the recognition of equality, capturing both parties in their truncated worldviews.

Contrary, asset based community driven approaches are about walking with people in such a way that all involved experience sustainable transformational development.

The economically poor are fully engaged in the conceptualization, execution, and evaluation of any project. They remain no longer in a receiving role but focus on their inherent knowledge and ability to steward their own communities.

The role of the worker in such participatory approach is to be an encourager, a catalyst, a facilitator, and a networker.

Poverty reduction begins in the minds and hearts of all involved people.

Medical care, education, and economic opportunities go alongside reconciliation of broken relationships and the discovery of one’s own dignity and potential. That’s the actMED concept: help to improve medical care and education combined with holistic projects to train, equip, and inspire individuals to have true ownership of development and transformation.

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