Eugene Cho

night and day: extreme poverty and wealth

This is my last night here in South Africa. Tomorrow, I begin my long trip back home that will take me from Africa to Europe and finally to Home, Sweet, Home.

My “research and relationship building” portion of the trip is now officially over and we’re chillin’ for two days in Capetown, South Africa – a city often regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. These folks aren’t lying. It’s truly a beautiful city.  Breathtaking…

But as you might expect, I’m having a hard time juxtaposing the extreme poverty I saw and heard in an area of South Africa called Kwazulu Natal with the opulence of an area of Capetown we visited where Hollywood stars like Leonardo Dicaprio have their vacation homes. [Pictures below…]

Obviously, it’s not just the stars.  It’s really me as well.  I know I don’t need to sell everything I have but I hope that you would join me in examining what we can do to help the poorest of the poor – in your own town, city, or in a distant country.  The vision of our global poverty initiative is VERY SIMPLE but I really do believe it can help make a difference in the lives of thousands if not millions.  No handouts here but connecting with NGOs and Commnity Based Organizations [CBOs] that understand their context and culture to challenge and equip people to uplift themselves out of poverty.  Clearly, we are the not the first and thankfully, not the last, but we’re excited to join the fight…  We’re not yet ready to reveal the name of our organizatio but once we do, we hope all of you can join the cause.  We will not ask folks to do anything we’re not willing to do which is why we’ve committed our year’s salary to the fight.

I need some time to process stuff but I’m thankful for the privilege of being invited to the homes of many.   Not everything I saw was pleasant.  In fact, I don’t even know if folks I spoke to last week are alive now as I write this blog entry.  Crazy.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  I have felt support from many.  And thanks to the anonymous benefactor in New York.  I still don’t know who you are but I am thankful for your generosity and vision.
kazuhome1

kazu2

Filed under: travel, ,

8 Responses

  1. chrismarlow says:

    amazing city. that is one of two “key” places we (help end local poverty) are working. I have a ton of great local cape town contacts if you want to meet some young local church leaders.

  2. Randall says:

    I once temp’d in the HR department of a large insurance company in Hawaii. It was just before y2k and the HR department wanted to move their database into a new, y2k “bug” proof system and it was my job to move all that data by hand (I guess they didn’t have enough time to come up with an automated solution).

    Anyway, I basically got to see the salaries of everyone who was working at that company. Many of the upper-level execs had six figure salaries.

    I remember eating lunch in the food court downstairs and noticing the maintenance workers cleaning out garbage cans. It struck that it would take those maintenance workers a year to make what the execs just a few floors above them would make in a few weeks.

    I know the issues are complicated and many, but what kind of world have we created? How can the work of one person be worth exponentially more than the work of someone else?

    And of course what makes this situation even more absurd is that the execs likely have a golden parachute tucked away so that even if they do their job poorly and get fired, they’ll still be taken care of. If the maintenance workers lose their jobs, they’re just out of luck.

    I was reminded of this maddening discrepancy while looking at the two pictures you posted above.

    Some say the world is getting smaller. In some ways this may be so but economically, we may as well be living on different planets. The rich continue to get richer but zero never moves.

    Keep plugging away at your global poverty initiative – breakthrough is just around the corner!

  3. I am with Randall. I had a similar experience while temping at a well known university hospital a few years ago. The work I was doing required a lot of movement around the hospital and it didn’t take long to recognize that the highly educated, highly paid, and in some cases world-renowned, doctors in that hospital would barely make eye contact with the uneducated, low-paid, and in most cases ethnically different, hospitality and housekeeping employees they would walk by or share an elevator with.

    That hospital could not function nor could it meet OSHA standards without those employees yet it seemed like there was little value for their work both in what they were paid and in how they were treated.

    I’ve experienced the same dichotomy in Guatemala City – where our work with Lemonade International is focused – the wealthy and successful of Guatemala City have little or no regard for the people right under their noses who live in a garbage-filled, gang-infested ravine with very little access to basic human needs.

    The stark contrasts are everywhere… and as Eugene points out… in our own hearts too.

  4. I’ve seen what you’ve seen, thought not in Africa… I’ve wondered what you’ve asked, and I’ve attempted at doing so, though i don’t have all the answers as to how, why or why its justified. It seems that in America, we all live off of others in that we feel good knowing, and i quote “there are lesser people, so be happy that you aren’t one of them.” I don’t like this sentiment however, its pervasive and I’m glad you don’t share this.

    I’ve gauged myself and even been tempted ask why i can’t ignore the poor’s cry for help! …and upon doing so, it just so happens that I’ve managed to be a part of real tangible changes through community development, one community a time, through working with community focused organizations.

    Therefore, I can only admit to one solution: build trust, engage the community, empower the people, provide access to education, promote enterprise, and conserve the environment. Do the above, and I promise you will succeed Eugene!

    Your ally,

    miguel juanez

    Thanks for your hard work and dedication to something i truly believe in

  5. Gillian says:

    For me, I’m tired of seeing the wealthy elite being the only ones on boards or committees geared towards issues of poverty. I would so like to see someone on these boards who has some experience with the issues, concerns and problems. I understand that those dealing with the issues have may have little ability to attend meetings etc. However, there must be someone who could represent these needs better than those who have solid financial futures. Maybe a mix of folks.

    Anyway, just a thought. You are in my prayers during your travels. (And at other times too!) Thank you for your willingness to share your insights.

  6. Capt Ralph says:

    Others have said it, but simply…….and maybe not as extreme, but our disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” is too great here at home, too.

  7. Jim Chen says:

    GOD keep you safe! Thanks for sharing the adventure!

  8. […] [3] It was great to meet local South Africans who care about their people and their poverty.  Surprisingly, I returned examining my commitment to the local poverty in Seattle.  But that makes sense: we have to care about our local neighborhood.  #2 and #3 is what I struggle with: such disparity between the have’s and have nots. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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