"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

When the subject of vocational training, or the question of how to help poor communities is raised, this proverb is often quoted. It challenges us to think beyond an immediate handout solution to how to enable people to gain control of their own, future wellbeing.

Teaching someone how to do something is much more helpful in the long run, rather than just doing it for them. Their ability to exercise their new found skill builds their sense of self-worth and dignity. It allows them to, both contribute, and participate in their local community, and helps break a cycle of dependency and poverty. Changing the mind-set of poor communities to one of dignity and self-respect is key to achieving sustainable positive change.

It is also an opportunity to witness God’s grace in action.

Christ’s ministry was particularly focused on the poor and oppressed:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. ”(Luke 4:18-19)

Christ addressed the needs of the poor and gave them equal recognition and dignity to be part of his family through grace. Christ’s example is a challenge to all of us, to respect the poor and treat them as equals; members of the same family. Theologian Vinay Samuel states that:

Christian engagement in empowering the poor to find economic solutions to poverty gives substance to their dignity as God’s children.

[1]

Following Christ’s example

The majority of the ministries WorldShare supports around the world are involved in poverty alleviation initiatives that seek to empower people in their differing contexts to improve their livelihoods. These development initiatives are expressions of Christ’s good news and a witness of the church family caring for those in need.

For example:

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  • ChrisFon in Pakistan is enabling families to work their way out of bonded labour through vocational skill training, literacy and a new found hope through the gospel.
  • PiFò Haiti is working through the formal education sector and encouraging local artisans to share their skills.
  • In Kolkata, JKPS is providing vocational training to women who have been rescued from the sex industry, as a means of providing an alternative source of income (pictured right).

For vocational training to be effective it also has to be locally appropriate, sustainable and valued. There needs to be a demand for the skills taught and a means of follow-up support.

Beyond vocational training

A lack of access to finance can often be a barrier to the application of training or the development of a small enterprise. To overcome this, it is vital for ministries, like ChrisFon and Potter’s House, to provide micro-finance and financial management training, alongside vocactional skills training. These ensure new enterprises and skills learnt last long into the future. Women particularly are found to benefit more when programmes combine both training and access to finance [2].

Read Delfina’s story here for a wonderful example of this, through the support of Potter’s House in Guatemala.

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Successful vocational skills programmes also provide technical support to improve people’s individual home-based enterprises. This combined with a sense of solidarity and mutual support in communities helps ensure continuity. This can be achieved by encouraging community members to share knowledge and skills, as in the case of PiFò Haiti (pictured left). Programmes that are based on mutually supportive groupings are particularly suited to church-based initiatives seeking to address the issue of poverty amongst their members and surrounding community.

Many programmes supported by WorldShare combine all the elements above as a means of helping people break free from the bonds that tie them to a life of perpetual poverty, seemingly without hope. Whether this be victims of rape in DR Congo receiving medical and emotional care alongside job training and small business loans to help rebuild their lives, isolated fishing communities along the Amazon in Brazil being trained in how to use the region’s natural resources responsibly to generate an income for their families or destitute widows in South Africa being provided with the opportunity to earn an income through learning how to make and sell handicrafts.

All of these programmes being run by our ministry partners are seeking to help communities become more self-reliant and aware of Christ’s love and concern for them. Sign up to WorldShare’s mailing list to hear how you too can help these ministries provide hope and a sense of dignity to the poor in their respective communities around the world.

By Dr Kevin McKemey, WorldShare Chair of Trustees

[1] V. Samuel and C. Sugden (2021), Good News for the Poor. Grove Book Ltd. Cambridge, P 5

[2] Z. Ismail (2018). Lessons learned from youth employment programmes in developing countries; K4D, DFID London. P2

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