Throughout our previous posts, we have discussed many of the challenges that affect the Phalombe District in Malawi: the educational system is poorly equipped; the secondary schools have high tuition fees; many families are unable to provide the resources and support necessary for the students to have a meaningful education; those that are fortunate enough to get a college degree return to communities that do not foster meaningful career opportunities. It is clear that quality education is the best path for the people of Malawi to escape this cycle.
There have been many organizations that have attempted to help in various ways, but in doing so they can often make the situation worse. They provide a solution to a problem (e.g., a new well system to provide fresh water for a village, seeds and resources to get through the tough growing season, etc.), and then leave. And when those organizations leave, oftentimes the solution leaves with them. The community did not learn how to solve the problem themselves, so they will be ultimately helpless the next time it happens again. The farmer won’t learn how to save money to purchase seeds for next year; the people in the village won’t know how to help those around them to make a new well system, or to repair the one they were given. It is a band-aid solution that is not sustainable.
Instead of having the confidence and knowledge to solve the problem on their own, these communities depend on outside help. This is called the “dependency syndrome”, and it exacerbates this cycle of poverty. When you are denied opportunities as a child and also never receive the knowledge, training, or life experiences to become a self sufficient adult, the deck is double stacked against you.
EKARI has a very distinct perspective on this issue and believes that the only way to truly help Phalombe is to change the mindsets of our beneficiaries. Instead of working for the community, we work with them. We give them the confidence and knowledge to tackle the problems they face so they may learn to help themselves and each other.
In order to reach this goal, we work hard to overcome the dependency mindset that has come to mire too many Malawians in extreme poverty. We work to change attitudes and beliefs. We work to instill a sense of hope in our beneficiaries that they can solve their own problems. Our programs are intentionally designed to provide a sense of responsibility and ownership. Our experience has shown that when we ask our beneficiaries’ to change their attitudes and when we support their behavior change, dependency becomes self sufficiency. Not only do they survive, they thrive.
If you would like to learn more, we will be discussing this topic at our Annual Event on October 8th! Not only will we share our work in overcoming this mindset, but we will be talking about beneficiary success stories as well!