Saturday, November 24, 2007


Development work is very frustrating. As we’ve learned from the literature, just giving them something never works in the long run. To make changes, you have to show them how to solve problems by themselves through experimentation. This is really hard because most of the people are convinced that if they just had lettuce seeds, if they just had a tractor, if they just had electricity, all of their problems would be solved, if only they could find someone to give it to them. They are convinced that the solutions to their problems are ‘out there’ in the world of NGOs and white people. Little by little, we have to show them that the solutions that really are out there won’t work until they reinvent them. That the solutions they come up with can work just as well. That they, not anyone else, have the power to solve their problems. One big cultural difference that we’ve noticed is the following: in individualist America, the phrase ‘not my problem’ is common, whereas the equivalent here is ‘your problem is my problem.’ Culturally, they are used to others helping out when there is a crisis. After all, the community needs to take care of itself. We, however, are used to fixing our own problems.

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