It’s easy to share when you have extra resources.
We volunteer because we can— we have the extra time and money, and sharing these things with people who don’t have them gives us more pleasure than spending it ourselves at home.
But what about those who don’t have extra? Is sharing and community the best way to go, or are you better off looking out for only yourself?
Community is one example of an ideal that volunteers come in with, but cannot be forced. In working with the mothers of SKIP, their natural reaction is to protect what little they have, and do what is best for themselves and their children. They are skeptical of working with others, and with reason, after the loan sharks, men, and even schools take seemingly endless amounts of money from them.
Jessica and I decided to give evaluations to each of the mothers to fill out in order to find out their feelings about the education system and SKIP. The main thing that stuck in my head after helping several mothers fill these out and reading the rest was the complete feeling of helplessness that they had. In recounting how much they pay to get their children to school on a monthly basis, most of them couldn’t come up with a specific number. Each month, each child is required to pay something different—and if they don’t have the money the children cannot take the tests or are not allowed to come to class. When you’re already on a small budget and then have variable expenses from month to month, for each of your 7 children, it’s no wonder these families are struggling.
SKIP’s Economic Development group quickly learned that you can’t force community. The coordinator tried to give loans to people in groups of two so that they could work together on certain handicraft projects and share materials, and also tried to give one mother who wanted to raise chickens the name of another who was looking to buy some to cook. Each person was resistant to entering into such a partnership and preferred to spend the extra money in order to be independent.
However, as time has gone on, these mothers have started teaching their own handicraft workshops at SKIP, which now have been increased to three days a week with different mothers sharing their unique skills. Not only is it great to watch their progress in their handicrafts, but it is incredible to see these independent women start to trust each other and seek each other’s help. One of the other volunteers overheard a conversation the other day where a few of the women were counseling another that she didn’t need to put up with her husband anymore, who would frequently spend their money on getting drunk. A few chimed in with stories about how they thought they needed their husband in the past, but it turns out all he contributed to their lives was unhappiness and money, and they could figure out how to make some and take care of their families themselves.
You can’t force community on people. And it sometimes doesn’t come in the ways you think it will. But when it comes from the people themselves, it can be a very important and powerful bond that helps them economically and socially.
Posted By Sara Zampierin
Posted Aug 2nd, 2007