Last January, I took a two week trip to Africa to assist with some economic development projects in the outskirts of Kigali, more specifically Karenge. The trip really gave me perspective on what it meant to live in poverty and the numerous obstacles of trying to climb out of it. Our partner on the ground was a pastor named Jean Baptiste. He took us around to meetings, set up transportation and housing, and also served as a translator for the majority of the time. After getting to know Jean he began to open up and tell us about his life and the struggles that he sees for Rwandans.
He is now a pastor and has planted several churches. He told us he came from poverty when he was a child and worked hard to get an education and found his calling as a pastor. He is not only passionate about spreading the Gospel, he is very passionate about alleviating poverty in his Church. His goal is to start sustainable businesses overseen by church members that will allow them to focus on missions and other church activities and reducing the stress of making money to support their families. In an interview he classifies what true poverty is as a mindset, behavior, and relationships. He goes on to explain how poverty is a sin and that God has blessed everyone with the resources of the earth and that they should be used to benefit ourselves individually, the Church, and society. Jean’s view on the mindset of those who believe they are poor is that they do not recognize the blessings that God has given them and do not believe that they can use what they have to better their lives and contribute to society. Jean works and lives in a village where there is little employment and not many villagers or church members have an education. He explained that he can use the resources that God has given them which makes his village an ideal place for agricultural projects, and that the villagers can tithe their time rather than resources and use the bodies that God has given them to lift themselves out of poverty and raise the Church up with them. Although I was only got a glimpse of true poverty on the trip, Jean made it clear how poverty is a mindset, and that mindset effects relationships and behavior that ultimately leads to poverty. Jean’s partnership is key because he has personal experience with alleviating poverty and knows the mindset of those we are working with. The goal of my project is to aid in the alleviation of poverty by employing locals at a sustainable business that I am responsible for writing the business plan and Jean and his partners on the ground will oversee day to day operations and management of the company.