I’m a firm believer that we all have a choice. We make choices every second of our lives that determine our reality. Ultimately, we all do exactly what we want; it’s just a matter of how badly we want it.
But does a child growing up in the inner city in Chicago or Compton understand that she has a choice? Does a young African living in the Kibera slums (in Nairobi, Kenya) understand that she has a choice?
As humanitarians, we ask ourselves what we can do to help the poor, or even eradicate extreme poverty. Yes, we can intervene, remove the immediate problems, put someone in a new environment and begin to provide opportunities, but most of these tactics are still short term at best. They are all dependent on the beneficiaries understanding and ability to process and implement the changes.
I believe our most effective strategy for helping the poor is to instill a new perspective and way of thinking. Yes, we all have a choice. But if you have never learned that you have a choice, and you’ve never disciplined yourself to keep a healthy perspective, no amount of opportunities or change of environment are going to make the difference.
True transformation cannot take place until a person can create a habit and lifestyle of seeing the world differently. As humanitarians, we have a duty to liberate people’s minds and teach them a new perspective.
The mind is the most powerful tool known to man. It’s central to every human action, or inaction. If we’re going to tackle an issue like extreme poverty, the mind is the first place to start. Without that foundation, our efforts are futile.
If you want to help, teach those less fortunate than you to think differently. Help them understand that they have a choice. And then teach them the disciplines that will help them attain the dreams that unfold from their new perspective.
Your best effort as a philanthropist is to liberate the minds of the people you’ve set out to help.