One of Nisolo’s founders, Patrick Woodyard, recently spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service in a lecture entitled “Fighting Poverty with Empowerment.” Addressing a wonderful crowd composed of Clinton School graduate students, leaders in the Little Rock community, and many friends and family, Patrick recounts Nisolo’s story within a thought-proving speech that requires listeners to re-think their views on what impoverishment looks like and the best ways to address poverty alleviation around the world today. Ultimately using Nisolo as an example in his talk, Patrick stresses the importance of empowerment, which essentially calls for innovative ways to equip the poor with the tools necessary to help themselves. Enjoy!
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Patrick first draws listeners in by addressing common misconceptions about the causes of material poverty and those living within it. He notes that inaccurate assumptions about those living in poverty include that the poor have a very defeated spirit, that they remain impoverished because of an unwillingness to work, or, even more commonly, that the poor are not capable of helping themselves and therefore need the help of others. He goes on to note that such common misconceptions about the poor have regrettably shaped the way that those in the developed world (i.e. you and I) choose to go about poverty alleviation efforts, mission work, and even local community service projects.
Patrick argues that our misunderstandings about the poor influence us to attempt to relieve the “effects” of poverty rather than more sustainably focusing on the causes of poverty and the true needs within impoverished communities. He mentions that we often see a hardship such as a lack of clothing items, an “effect” of poverty, and do things like give away clothes or shoes to the poor as a result. Patrick states that instead, we should be seeking sustainable ways to empower the impoverished so that they can buy their own material possessions and—more importantly—break the cycle of material poverty.
Drawing from personal experiences in Uganda, Central America, Peru and other South American countries, Patrick paints a picture of the real face of poverty in the developing world, one that demonstrates the resilient spirit of the poor and a remarkable work ethic that trumps most anything seen in the developed world today. Above all, he provides a clear explanation of the fact that what keeps people from climbing out of poverty is by no means a lack of “ability” but a lack of “access” to things such as consistent employment, education, proper healthcare.
Patrick goes on to provide a clear explanation of the fact that what often times keeps people from climbing out of poverty is by no means a lack of “ability” but a lack of “access” to things such as consistent employment, education, and proper healthcare. He then explains that as a result, our relief efforts should reflect this truth in a way that calls for development work to always hold as a principle the shear reality that rather than working “for” the poor, we should consistently search for ways to work “with” the poor in a manner that promotes empowerment of individuals instead of “band-aid solutions” that support only short-term relief.
In the modern developed world, conscious consumerism continues to grow at an exponential rate, and while this is a very good thing, Patrick notes that we must all be sure that the products we represent are practicing “good deeds” that pragmatically address needs in a sustainable manner rather than simply sounding nice at first glance. Using Nisolo’s business model as an example, he concludes that Americans and the rest of the developed world must question current community service and poverty alleviation efforts and be sure that all methods that are being employed today are sustainably helping people break the cycle of poverty rather than steadily contributing to its permanence.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JACOB SLATON
Nisolo would like to thank Dean Rutherford and the Clinton School of Public Service for the invitation to participate in such a wonderful event. In addition, we would like to thank everyone who attended the event and contributed to its success. We are also grateful for the positive feedback and encouragement received at the reception held at Cajun's after the event. Among others, a very special thank you goes out to Sparky Reardon, Nikolai DiPippa, Graham and Meredith Catlett, Bill and Carolyn Booker, Mary Beth and Harold Ringgold, Joe Luck, Howard and Betsy Woodyard, Mayor Mark Stodola, Jessica Dean, Blake Rutherford, The Copper Grill Breakfast Group, Meenakshi Budhraja, Beth Hathaway, Dru and Jo Dodson, Joe Justus,Rachel Scott, Steve and Karen Woodyard, and Bill and Lanie Brandon.
We are so grateful for your support!