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Together, WE Are The Solution to Poverty

We thought you’d enjoy this essay written recently by one of our founders.

We. They. Us. Them.

These are powerful pronouns, which is never more clear than when they’re used in discussions about global poverty.

Most Americans enjoy an income that ranks us among the top one percent of the world’s wealthy. We know poverty is bad, but if given the chance, most of us would do something about it. America is an altruistic nation, which is why efforts to address poverty through nonprofit donation, social activism, online portals, mega conferences, cause marketing, social entrepreneurship, and crowd-sourcing campaigns are at an all-time high. The business of “doing good” has never been better.

Unfortunately, our altruism is largely ineffective. Our best efforts at poverty alleviation have made only a small impact, and in many cases we have worsened the problem. Why? Most of the innovation aimed at fighting poverty occurs within a rigid paternalistic paradigm where those living in poverty receive and those fighting poverty give. People think “they” (the poor) will rise out of poverty if “we” (the wealthy) simply give them clean water, new shoes, or better eyeglasses. The result? We foster dependence both in the developing world and in our own low-income neighborhoods. Instead of bringing real change, we destroy initiative, damage dignity, and create a cycle that requires constant input.

Breaking this cycle demands the reeducation of both the givers and the recipients. Both groups must recognize that those living in poverty can pull themselves out of it if they have the chance. Both must recognize that those living in poverty are the solution, not the problem.

By living and working among the poor for the past 12 years, JoyCorps and its partner businesses have discovered immense, transformational power lying dormant in the hearts of impoverished people across the globe. Once they’re empowered to tap into it, amazing things happen. JoyCorps has helped local entrepreneurs establish businesses that employ hundreds of artisans in their own neighborhoods. Many have overcome abuse, disease, trafficking, addiction, or lives of begging.

How do we do this? We work to cultivate a capacity for innovation, arming people with the weapons they’ll need to fight poverty in their own communities—weapons like work, training, education, and micro loans. We also believe proximity is key. When we live among those in poverty, we learn to love them not as projects but as friends and neighbors. Proximity breaks down the us/them dichotomy; the word “we” begins to include our neighbors of all income levels, nationalities, and backgrounds.

What can you do? Support holistic businesses and organizations, those that equip people living in poverty with tools for long-term transformation. Choose to live in close proximity to the marginalized in your own community, so you know them as your neighbors and friends and better understand their needs—and your own. Finally, remember that we are all we. We inhabit this globe together, and it is only by working and living together that we will change inequality and chip away at poverty. Together, we are the solution.

—Mel Murray




Light the World

Light the World is here in Dehradun!

Light the World is a photographic workshop designed and taught by award-winning humanitarian photographers Austin Mann and Esther Havens. The images they capture in their travels around the world help non-profits build compelling social-awareness campaigns and raise much-needed funds.

The LTW team spent last week with our partner businesses in Dehradun, using photography and storytelling to capture the work we do on the ground. The images they create will help us build media campaigns, raise money, and ultimately empower our artisans through work and community development programs.

Read more about our partnership with Light the World here and consider making a donation to help fund this amazing work.

The first 200 people to donate more than $50 will be given this gorgeous JOYN tote, designed exclusively for Light the World!

LTW tote




Living in Community

group

We often talk about community development. We mean lots of things when we use those words: providing opportunities for holistic change in the lives of our artisans. Jobs, food, education, medical care, counseling—all those things that contribute to total health and wholeness.

Social health is an important component of community development, too. We believe people are inherently social beings who need to be in relationship with others. Think of the most joyful people you know, and I’ll bet a big part of their joy comes from the presence of healthy, thriving, solid relationships in their lives. Conversely, when relationships are broken or difficult, people hurt.

That’s why when we talk about community development, we put a lot of emphasis on that first word: community. To really develop communities, to bring holistic change to people’s lives, we think we have to be living in and among the communities we serve.

We’ve partnered with businesses (read about them here) whose founders have chosen to live and work among the people they employ. They don’t manage business operations from comfortable homes in the West; rather, they’ve chosen to live in India, to raise their families there. Our current group of partners is a diverse and growing team of Americans, Indians, Australians, Brits, Tibetans, and Nepalese who live and work together, who strive to take care of one another. Our team learns more each day about what will hurt our artisans and what will help them. We are driven by a belief that our lives shouldn’t be any different from the lives of the people we serve. Our aim is elevate their standards and readjust our own.

Community is a beautiful thing. It takes work, and it takes a great deal of humility. But when a community is transformed, and it moves from a state of surviving to one of thriving, it’s all worth it.




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