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Story Three

They wanted to alleviate poverty

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Short Stories to illustrate the principles


The councillors of New Vancouver, a comfortable rural town in a wealthy country, took a goodwill tour overseas, and visited a very low income country. They came home fired up with the idea that the people of their town could help to alleviate poverty.

Back in their town, they showed slides of what they had seen. “Shoes!” said one councillor, “The teachers are not wearing shoes. We can help education there by sending them shoes.” So the campaign began. People donated the shoes they no longer wanted, baby shoes, winter boots, ballet shoes, cowboy boots, bedroom slippers, dress shoes. They sent a container and arranged for the Ministry of Social Welfare to distribute the shoes to teachers.

Six months later, one of the councillors made a follow up visit to see the effect of the shoes gift. Not much. Some teachers still wore bare feet to class so as to preserve their shoes for more important occasions. The councillor wanted to know what was going on so he went out for a beer with a manager of the mobilization scheme in the ministry. “You see, such a scheme merely alleviates the problem temporarily, but it does not solve the problem. To reduce poverty on a sustainable basis, we need to find ways for the people to generate or create new wealth. Gifts do not do that, they merely train people to expect more gifts.” Much subdued, the councillor returned home with a big job ahead of raising awareness among his town residents.

Note: These stories are based on actual events. The names of people and places have been changed for the sake of anonymity.


© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
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Last update: 2012.12.02

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