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Sustainable Aid: The Long-Term Solution to Poverty

Words by 3p Contributor
Investment & Markets

By Shane Jabir

The statistics are staggering. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die every day from poverty. For the 1.9 billion children living in the developing world, there are 640 million without adequate shelter, or 1 in 3 children. The World Bank states that 2.2 billion people live on less than US$2 a day, whereas 35 years ago 2.59 billion people lived at this financial level -- a minimal decline over a 35-year period.

I could go on with these statistics forever, but a long-term solution to poverty needs to be put into place.  The answer is sustainable aid: assistance that won’t use itself up and will actually keep producing.  By investing in the development of entire communities, we will see poverty rates drop.

Maimonides, the Spanish philosopher, explains this concept through his famous quote: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Many nonprofits, social impact companies and NGOs provide meals or shoes to impoverished areas. Of course this is necessary and important for survival, but these things run out. A meal can only last so long until a child is once again hungry, wondering where his or her next meal will come from. A pair of shoes will become tattered and worn, and once again a child will run barefoot. Now please do not interpret this as ungratefulness toward this type of aid, as that would be outrageously crucial. But it’s only temporary.

Sustainable aid is how industrialized, developed countries can fight and, over time, end poverty. Teaching people in developing countries how to farm will not only feed them forever, but will also grant them the opportunity to move upward economically. When these individuals experience economic advancement, a new world opens up. They no longer need to spend their day finding a meal and can actually work to create profits for their families as well as food for their communities. Their children now have time to become educated. Children beginning to work at an early age while missing educational opportunities is all too common in impoverished areas, and sustainable aid can help fight this issue.

Yes, providing sustainable aid is time-consuming and resource intensive. Yet funneling resources that provide temporary aid into sustainable aid programs can be a strong beginning to ending cyclical poverty. Look at Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit organization based out of New York City. Its team builds schools in areas lacking any type of educational services. When building a school, they ask that the community provide 20 percent of materials and labor. This ensures that the community will maintain the school. The organization also provides supplemental services to ensure their schools are providing quality education.

A startup company, WholeStory Hammocks, based out of Rochester, New York, is taking a similar approach to alleviating poverty. By using a model they call their Full Circle Approach to Giving, the WholeStory team employs artisans and also build homes for families in need.

The social enterprise employs a family of Nicaraguan artisans who hand-weave hammocks. They are imported into the states, and every time WholeStory sells 100 hammocks, it funds a home to be built for a Nicaraguan family in need. To date, WholeStory has employed more than 80 artisans and has built three homes for three different families in need. By providing homes to Nicaraguan families that live on $2 a day, families have a safe place to advance. Instead of worrying about living conditions, each family can begin working, and children can find time receive an education. This home lasts for generations.

View the video below to see how WholeStory uses sustainable aid to alleviate poverty for families in need, giving them a new beginning.

All humanitarian aid is powerful and important. But poverty has been too common for too long. Organizations, governments and institutions need to pool together resources to build communities. Build schools. Build healthcare systems. And then train communities how to uphold these additions. Poverty can be reduced, but to make a lasting change, sustainable aid needs to be the primary aid.

Image credit: WholeStory Hammocks

Shane Jabir is the COO and Co-Founder of WholeStory Hammocks, a start-up social enterprise that works to alleviate poverty for families in Nicaragua. We employ a family of artisans in Nicaragua who hand weave beautiful hammocks. We purchase the hammocks from them and then sell them in the states. For every 100 hammocks we sell we fund a home to be built for a Nicaraguan family in need. We've employed 80+ artisans and have built three homes for three families. Shane graduated from the University of Dayton with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. He is highly interested in social entrepreneurship, sustainable energy, innovation and design, digital media and marine biology. Contact him at shane.jabir@gmail.com.

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