A Fresh Outlook On Combatting Poverty
Reported by Ana Imes
On Nov. 14, Paige Lange, regional representative for HOPE International, gave a presentation at George Fox University (GFU) to promote sustainable charity. HOPE International is a Christian nonprofit organization focused on alleviating physical and spiritual poverty through Christ-centered microenterprise development.
Lange first experienced “toxic charity” on a church mission trip to Haiti during her college years. She defines “toxic charity” as giving that creates a cycle of dependence rather than empowerment.
When well-meaning donors send supplies or people to help impoverished communities without training locals or setting up a system of self-sufficiency, the impact is often negative, and the affected area is unable to grow economically or even spiritually. After searching for organizations dedicated to healthy charity and sustainability, Lange found HOPE.
HOPE’s mission is to “invest in the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities.” More practically, this involves empowerment through “access to financial capital and business trainings,” Lange explained.
In the sixteen countries where HOPE works, most people don’t have access to banks, and when they do, they lack the paperwork necessary to use them. This prevents them from using loans to grow businesses, keeping most of their community trapped in the poverty cycle.
HOPE works to break that cycle through biblically based training, savings services, and loans. Working through local churches, HOPE establishes Christ-centered savings group programs in which members contribute weekly to a community fund that is periodically used to cover larger expenses or emergencies by anyone in the group. This allows individuals to develop trustworthy relationships that can hold them accountable for growing their personal savings, and the structure “takes advantage of the cultural benefits of communal culture,” according to Lange.
Savings groups are useful for situations in which people want to create more stable financial situations for their families, but economic growth in the larger community is more efficiently addressed through microfinance institutes. These organizations give small loans to people who are interested in growing their business, allowing them to invest in more products or a better space in which to sell them.
This method has been highly successful; in fact, “98% of borrowers are able to pay back the loan within five years,” Lange said.
HOPE uses the savings group and microfinance methods to empower people and “restore dignity,” Lange said. Amidst much turmoil and despair, HOPE International is a refreshing example of a sustainable way to combat poverty.