I remember growing up hearing two phrases in any conversation about nonprofit work:
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”and“What they need is a ‘hand-up’ not a ‘hand-out.’”
Both phrases have been instructive in many ways, and come from a progression of our understanding of how to enact change in our world. Some thoughtful folks have used these terms to encourage a more beneficial strategy in addressing need beyond creating dependency. Certainly, there is a need to address issues in our world with sustainable solutions rather than a 1-time gift that just delays suffering.
I believe we’ve come a long way in creating sustainable solutions. Accountability and expectations have grown for nonprofit organizations and program, and there is much better research and understanding of foundational challenges that need addressing. What is also true is that we have gained a greater grasp of the realities we face, and we now recognize things aren’t quite as simple as giving money or teaching skills.
For Sari Bari, I want to encourage an understanding that takes our actions a step beyond simply giving or teaching. If all Sari Bari does is provide job skills/employment, the reality is that it is not enough. Why? While the need is financial and there a need for training and sustainable employment, there is something beneath that is more critical to address.
The reasons women are prostituted and trafficked are complex. Economic insecurity is not the only root of slavery. Lack of skills is not the only factor for vulnerability. The world’s most vulnerable exist in environments which do not offer them choices or afford them the opportunity to live with dignity. They may not have access to the basic resources that would allow them to choose work or make a change in their situation.
Imagine teaching someone to snow ski while in the middle of the desert. You’ve given them the tools — the skis and poles. You’ve even instructed them in the star, “snow-plow” position to safely make it to the bottom of a mountain. None of this does any good without actually being on a snowy decline. It would even be cruel to then accuse your student of failing to try or taking advantage of your generosity because they do not dart away on their skis with their new skill. In the same way, the women of Sari Bari continue to make brave choices to develop the skills they need on their journey to freedom, but what is needed is a sustainable foundation and environment for them to choose, work, and live. We all can, if only given the opportunity and right environment, find freedom.
We at Sari Bari would like to encourage the next step in our thinking. It’s time to move past the idea of the “hand-up” and move toward collaborative partnerships and community (much like the image for this campaign imagines). We must recognize a greater need to build a world where freedom and opportunity can be sustained and replicable. We can expand our understanding and acknowledge it isn’t enough to give once or even to teach a skill. We have the opportunity to participate in supporting a life-changing structure like Sari Bari that enables the possibility of future healthy sustainable structures. In all of it, we recognize our connected nature, and through our participation, we are ready to join with the women of Sari Bari as we step more fully into freedom ourselves.
THAT is the invitation to journey with us. It is more than a gift. It is a recognition of an ongoing process to realize a world of freedom for you, for me, and for the women of Sari Bari. It is a commitment to that world. It requires all of us — joining in our shared journey to freedom.
Will you journey with us?
Executive Director, Sari Bari USA