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A “Must See” new documentary on helping developing countries

A couple of weeks ago I came across a documentary movie on Amazon Prime TV that really impacted me. The title is Poverty, Inc. – the movie lasts about 90 minutes and was released earlier this year (2016). I believe it is essential viewing for anyone interested or involved in overseas missions or aid. Even though it is challenging and tough to hear many of the interviews and comments, I was so encouraged to finally hear honest assessments of the many missions and aid programs that have been carried out and praised for decades, many of which I have personally had doubts about after my travels overseas to Latin America and Africa. In addition to many testimonies (of both good and bad experiences), the filmmakers share interviews with experienced leaders who have defined root problems that, if tackled as priorities, could really make a difference in developing nations being able to improve conditions and overcome poverty themselves. The issue is – how to change and improve the well-established methods of how aid is given by more prosperous countries?

Gerald and I have long since been against the “Great White Missionary Syndrome” (as we’ve called it) where westerners bring the Gospel and humanitarian aid into a poor country with an attitude of “we’ve come to fix your problems”. We believe that when people turn to God for guidance and creativity, He will help them, no matter where they live around the world or even what their financial situation or education may be – as, after all, locals usually understand their problems better than foreigners! A significant quote from the film is “Only Africans can develop Africa.”  We have also sadly seen (and experienced) how good hearted donations of clothes and other “needed” items may actually lead to MORE problems within a poor community – something that is well-illustrated in the film. Naturally this is very hard for many westerners to accept – we WANT to help, but maybe we should investigate further and learn better ways to REALLY help!

One of the main points explained that really helped me to understand the situation better is that in two-thirds of the world there is still no “rule of law”. In other words, although there may be laws, there is no respect for the law, property rights or justice in the courts. There are no land titles or property rights, and the average person has no access to lawyers and so is excluded from the entire legal system. The law can be bought by those who have power or money – so there is no justice system. As a result it is impossible for a small business or hard-working entrepreneur to be successful. This must change before any nation can actually “develop”.world injusticeTrade agreements can be made with China or the West, and foreign aid can be shipped in by the ton, but the country still cannot develop as it should until the average citizen is able to become more a part of the process. Foreign run orphanages often end up receiving children from homes where a single parent cannot feed all the family – leading to breaking up of the home, and children with emotional problems. If instead the single parent could find better work and emotional support, the family could be preserved. With better understanding of the issues, different kinds of aid from the West could lead to REAL help and development. The film confirmed our own views on orphanages and in particular our vision for the Joseph Project in Togo – that they should be more a kind of training center to help develop useful skills and enable young people to actually move ahead into more productive and self-sufficient lives.

I encourage you to at least watch the film’s short trailer which lasts just over 2 minutes:

The complete film can be seen on Amazon Prime, Netflix, Vudu and other sites.

Also check out the website:

Here are some quotes I’ve taken from Mark Weber’s “Frequently asked questions”  section of their website: Quotes from Poverty, Inc

I would love to hear what you think about the film and any comments about the issue in general.

3 Comments on “A “Must See” new documentary on helping developing countries

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  2. I just got a chance to watch this film on Netflix. It had such a profound message that really made me re-think some of my own views on helping the needy. I felt convicted at the fact that I have put far more research into buying a new toy for my children than into the vision and inner workings of the non-profits to whom I have made donations. I feel we have a commission from God to care for the less fortunate and yet we can often try to rush to check that box off our list. This film is not condemning those who contribute to the current broken foreign aid system but seeks to educate us all on how we can make lasting changes that will truly make a difference.

    Thanks so much for the recommendation!! I will certainly try to move forward with a new mindset about how I help others in need.

    • Thanks Anna. I appreciate you taking the time to both watch the film and also share your comments. It’s so easy to fall into a habit even when we are helping others! I hope others will be inspired to watch the film and also seriously consider its message and their own contributions to helping those in need.

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