Immediately after viewing the trailer for Poverty, Inc. I was desperate to know more. The topic involved something I participate in and spend money on, but this documentary raises the question of whether this act is actually helpful or possibly perpetuating a problem.
The problem starts with poverty. Charitable organizations gather resources to be able to provide for the poor. Then they become reliant on receiving handouts, rather than supporting local businesses by purchasing these goods themselves (why pay for something, when you can get it for free?). Those local businesses are no longer able to sell their products and in turn go out of business, creating more poverty.
In Poverty, Inc. I learned about an exciting company in Africa (Enersa) that used the sun’s energy to power street lights. Enersa was thriving, selling 50 street lights a month. When the earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) came in to help and provided street lights for free. Enersa’s sales plummeted, only selling 5 street lights from January to June.
It’s something I never really thought about before, and the film does a great job at drawing our attention to this defunct system, while also telling us the solution. How to end poverty isn’t by aid. Aid should only be used in extreme situations and not as a way of life. What solution, then, would work in the long run? Don’t just give a man a fish. Instead, give that man a fishing rod and teach him to fish, letting him be self-reliant.
The best way we can help end the poverty in third-world countries is to buy something that supports jobs in those developing nations.
The most moving part of the film for me was seeing this solution change the lives of families in Haiti. Men and women worked to make unique and beautiful jewelry. Having that job allowed one woman, for example, to take her family from a too-small tent to being able to buy a house for them to live in, and all she had to do was sell 200 necklaces to get there.
That company came about when a man and women came to Haiti to adopt a child. They quickly learned that the majority of the orphans were there, not because their parents died or didn’t love them, but because their parents simply could not afford to feed, house and educate their children. They loved their children, so they put them up for adoption in hopes that they could have a better life. If those parents were not a victim of poverty and had jobs, they would have loved to raise their kids themselves.
The man and woman who’d come to Haiti looking to adopt were so moved by this problem, that they decided to start up the company providing Haitian men and women with jobs hand-crafting jewelry. Those people now have jobs providing them with a steady form of income to provide for their families and pull themselves out of poverty.
I absolutely recommend seeing Poverty, Inc. at Thin Line Fest. It is a powerful documentary that will change the way you think about poverty, and it will change your life. Poverty, Inc. will be playing on Friday, February 20, 2015 at 3 p.m. at the historic Campus Theatre.