Monday, June 01, 2015

Not Charity

One of the most important things to John McInroy is that it is understood that Unogwaja is not a charity. The 1000 mile trip that Robert Le Brun and him made from Cape Town to the Comrades Marathon was not a test of endurance. John bubbles with energy to get things started. His passion is infectious and he desperately wants the people he loves to be empowered. To feel like their destiny is in their own hands. 'The Light Fund' looks to find projects to help people who help themselves. It is not a hand out.

I have spent a lot of time studying the 'hard part' of wealth creation. This came from a background of 'hating money' and not letting it be in control of me. What makes a business work? What makes good marketing? How do you make money work for you rather than the other way around? What is tough to separate though is the 'soft part' of wealth creation. I am convinced that the best investment and the insurance policy is education, not gold. If you take everything away from someone, you can't strip away their Social Intelligence You can't steal their Emotional Intelligence. Part of this comes simply from being around people who are empowered themselves. Empowerment soaks deep. Disempowerment too.

So part of believing in not 'giving handouts' comes with a fat dose of humble pie realising that most of our handouts were given to us in the social, genetic and geographic lotteries. The cards life deals you are handouts. Perhaps you were lucky enough to meet someone amazing. A partner, a friend, a teacher. Part of that is because you are amazing, no doubt. Part of that is a handout. We may want to believe that our success has come from hard work rather than talent. Talent is luck, but hard work is something you can be proud of. But isn't the ability to work hard a talent?

Unravelling what is privilege and what we can take credit for is an almost impossible philosophical challenge. I think a great approach is similar to how the Yogis think about happiness. If you are not happy, it is your fault. That seems a brutal way to look at it. But... But... But... The harsh truth is that we don't control the 'handouts' we receive. We do control the thing we do next.

And that is where I think John and 'The Light Fund' are spot on. They focus on the thing people do next. This can be done without 'wealth colonialism' where people with privilege go out and show people how to get out of the mud. How can people do this if they themselves have no clue of the social and emotional hurdles that need to be overcome?

But you can walk together. You can let people know that you are available to help. You are available to listen. To learn with each other. To work with each other.

You can be available to build the stuff that can't be taken away.

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