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What We’re Reading: The Poor Will Be Glad

By Eric Walcott

Every Wednesday, we highlight an article, book or a blog in our “What We’re Reading” series. We feature works that are noteworthy, inspiring, educational or relevant to the work we do at Opportunity. We welcome your comments in the comment field below–tell us what you’re reading, or respond to the piece we’ve highlighted. The following post by Eric Walcott, an Opportunity intern in our Resource Development department, reflects on Peter Greer and Phil Smith’s book The Poor Will Be Glad

This Wednesday's What We're Reading selection is the book "The Poor Will Be Glad" by Peter Greer and Phil Smith.

I recently finished reading the book The Poor Will be Glad, written by Peter Greer and Phil Smith. I don’t know about the poor, but reading the book made me glad. The first thing I felt when reflecting on what I had read was the hope it gave me. It also gave me realistic, practical steps that I can take to make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty. Through its stories of financial success and failure, as well as direct, practical guidelines for eradicating poverty, accompanied by incredibly moving photography, The Poor Will Be Glad provides a great balance of the sad reality of poverty with the hope that exists for a revolution.

The book’s stories of failed attempts to help the poor really makes you step back and think: “By trying to help, how can I avoid becoming part of the problem?” At the same time, the book’s presentation ofhttp://www.opportunity.org/what-is-microfinance/microfinance[/intlink] and the way it has revolutionized development efforts gives cause for great hope.

At Opportunity, we know exactly what the authors mean when they say that microfinance can change the world. In fact, we’ve seen it. The book actually highlights Opportunity as one of the best models for an MFI that does its work in a way that helps the poor build themselves up, creating independence rather than dependence.

The authors also address how faith communities and individuals can get involved in fighting poverty. While they clearly want people to be excited about microfinance (as they should be!) they don’t want their readers getting carried away and running off to try and start their own MFIs without properly examining the feasibility of such an attempt. They do encourage individuals and churches to get involved with MFIs as a way to fight poverty.

Key suggestions for how to have an impact on global poverty:

  • Be an advocate – Spread the word about microfinance whenever you get a chance.
  • Make a donation – Any amount of giving can help. For the price of a Christmas present one can make a practical difference in the life of an individual in the developing world.
  • Fund a community bank – Members of a faith community can work together to raise enough money to fund a community bank loan portfolio. In this way, one community can reach out to directly impact another.
  • Fund a project – Pick a specific project to support that is being done by an MFI .

Another important topic with which The Poor Will be Glad deals is the balance between the emphasis on the social needs and the spiritual needs of people living in poverty. For a long time, churches and mission organizations focused only on saving souls. This emphasis ignores the fact that we should spend our time on earth bringing God’s love to the world. That means addressing spiritual and social needs, not one or the other.

This book argues in favor of the very thing that motivates Opportunity’s work: empowering people to work their way out of poverty and responding to Christ’s call to love and serve all people. It is a message of openness and inclusion that resonates with me.

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