I have just learned that today October 15th, 2008 is Blog Action Day to Fight Global Poverty! So here are some thoughts related to poverty and what we are learning by doing.
On Monday I came home to the UK from one of my "working holidays" at Fantsuam Foundation (FF) in North Central Nigeria. When I am not physically at Fantsuam I work with the project there via the Internet.
FF began as a micro finance scheme and has helped thousands of women over the years through its loans. It is now also an integrated community development programme involved in health, education, training, rural connectivity, solar energy, eco-development, and all aspects of family life. My involvement has to do with education and training, including working at a distance with people through the Internet.
FF is in a rural area that knows very well about poverty. The poverty levels are such that loans of only a few pounds can make a big difference. They can help people to set up as petty traders and earn a living. FF also has a programme which supports widowed grandmothers who are supporting at least four orphaned grandchildren. The programme gives them 300 Naira a month - approximately £1.50.
Director John Dada says that at Fanstuam Foundation people learn twice, once by doing and a second time by sharing what they know. I love that attitude. I am a teacher. I like practical, project based approaches to learning and I also know that teaching something well is a good way of demonstrating competence. Another reason why I like the attitude of the rural community projects sharing what they know is because I believe that will be the best way to tackle the issues of poverty.
The Internet allows two way exchanges of information. People who have to cope with the challenges of poverty first hand, on a daily basis, are the experts. We need to tackle problems through exchanging information, not through top-down approaches. People in the so-called developed and developing countries should be "rubbing minds" to tackle issues of poverty together.
Incidentally, I don't believe that material wealth is the only indicator of poverty. I believe there are other kinds of poverty too. Some people for instance are time-poor, others may not have many social contacts and so on. What do we really want for a poverty-free future? What kind of sustainable life styles can we develop together?
I know from the work I do with Fantsuam Foundation that we really can use the Internet to exchange practical information at a distance, and work together even when we are not face to face. I am hopeful that more people who are tackling poverty will come and rub minds with us - either face to face in UK with me, or with John and his team in Nigeria, or with all of us through the Internet - so we can all learn from each other, share our practical knowledge, and make more rapid advances against poverty.