Words matter
Posted by Kevin Salwen on 08.23.2010Share

We're asked constantly why we chose to support The Hunger Project with our family's resources. The basics are obvious: THP's methodology to help villagers move from poverty to self-reliance; the success rate; the management team (especially on the ground); and of course the programming, from empowerment training to micro loans.

But we love THP for their terminology too. Yes, just the words they use. What do I mean? First, there are no donors or recipients. We are investors, as in investing in the lives of others. We expect a return on investment, which comes in human transformation. The people in the villages are partners, in other words, our teammates.

Maybe this sounds trite to you. After all, doesn't action matter more than words? Sure it does, but words are also a reflection of action. For instance, when you view people living in poverty as partners and not recipients to be pitied it changes the approach. THP and our family believe that villagers are the authors of their own future, not us. We don't build a bunch of stuff for them, they build it for themselves. We invest in our partners as they invest in themselves.

So, it didn't surprise me today when I got a receipt for tickets I bought for our family to attend THP's Fall Event. You've gotten those receipts before, and if you read them they usually say something like: "Thanks to your support, we are able to do blah blah blah." The message is standard: When you donate, the organization does its work for those people.

By contrast, THP's receipt included this sentence: "In Africa, more than 100 clusters of villages (known as “epicenters”) have launched projects to generate income and build classrooms, food storage facilities and nurses' quarters to ensure ready access to health care." Read it again. The Africans have launched projects. They are building their own futures, not us, not THP.

Who are we betting on? The people in the villages, with some guidance from THP based on proven strategies.

Read carefully. You can learn a lot.

Kelly, what a great story!! Thanks for sharing (of course, sharing!) and more importantly thanks for the great work you are doing.
Posted by Kevin at 07:32am on 08.24.2010

This is so true! I work at a non-profit where I struggle with these words everday. Just as an example last week,on facebook, you asked about give, share etc...I decided that share was the word that I liked the best. Our office was honored to work with a recent high school graduate who could have had many labels that she could have lived up to that all could be negative. She is exactly like your villages in Africa. We were able to introduce her to many people and opportunities this summer that hopefully will continue to motivate her to make good choices. Her last day was Friday and she gave each of us a heartfelt handwritten note about what her summer experience had meant to her and that she thought it was a job, but she is leaving with so much more including friendship (I might say mentors, but I know that I encourage my friends to do their best and help them along the friend is a better word as well). When the other Power of Half stalker in our office turned the card over, the brand was Words to Share! We both turned our cards around and have these words facing us to remind us about the words we use and how they can impact the partnerships that are happing in our community! Thanks again for adding new words into my vocabulary when we talk about the opportunities we have in our community!
Posted by Kelly at 1:42pm on 08.23.2010