Eugene Cho

Invest in women and girls around the world as an affirmation of dignity that has already been given to them by God.

This is one of the reasons why my wife, kids, and I started One Day’s Wages. It’s because we believe in local heroes like Diana Keesiga who was  born in Western Uganda and at a very young age decided she wanted to be an engineer. She defies the dangerous stereotypes that we have about Africans being absolutely lost and helpless without Western saviors or only looking for handouts. Diana has a love and understanding of her Ugandan people and culture that we will never fully grasp – which is why its best for us to come alongside people like Diana but we should never take their place.

In doing the work of justice, one of the most fundamental questions we must ask is this:

“Who are we trying to elevate? The people we serve or ourselves?

I dare you to watch this short video (above) about Diana and the water partnership between One Day’s Wages and The Adventure Project – that is currently being featured on Upworthy. There are many but here are four reasons why I love this partnership:

1 in 3 water wells are broken in Africa

While there are few things in development as spectacular as seeing water gush out of the ground after a well is drilled, what happens in year 2, 5, and 10 is far more important and difficult. By many reports, over one-third of all wells drilled in the last twenty years are now broken – 50,000 are currently broken in Africa alone, preventing access to clean water for millions of people. Some experts say as much as 60% of wells in the developing world aren’t working. Wells often break within a few years and in most instances, there are no trained mechanics, spare parts, or tools nearby…or the local community is not invested enough to maintain the well.

That’s why good community development must work with communities to equip people to care for their water systems, long after the “grand opening” ribbon-cutting ceremonies have faded from memory. If some organization comes in, drills wells, and doesn’t teach people the importance of clean water or teach how to care for the systems from a community level, it’s a disservice to the community.

For those that aren’t good at math, that’s 1 out of every three water wells. Like a lot. Like 33% a lot.While there’s value in creating new water solutions, it’s also smart for many reasons to “rehabilitate” and fix those broken water wells.

23 broken wells to be exact. For 23 different communities.

Jobs and People

This partnership creates 46 jobs.
Will this fix everything?
Will it change the entire world?

The answers: No and No.

How about now? No, still won’t change everything but those jobs will impact the world of those 46 people. Those jobs for local folks will create ownership that will  impact sustainability. Even more so, those water wells will help provide clean water to about 5750 people. Not a typo. Real people. And while water, in itself, won’t fix everything, it impacts so much.

5750 people.

No “Free” Water

Yes. That’s what I wrote. No “free” water.

Handouts can be debilitating in any context. We’re not speaking about abusing water privileges or preventing access but when we keep assuming that people are so poor…we can easily make false assumptions and in the process, block paths to create healthier systems and for more ownership and sustainability.

When I’ve traveled to the developing world, it’s always amazed me how many people have cellphones. Those cellphones have costs and thus, are seen as particularly valuable.

Water is valuable. Charge a small fee for usage. Very small fee. But those small usage fees add up that go to a fund that helps for repair costs because we know the inevitable will eventually all happen: All wells and water pumps will break at some point.

But they don’t have to remain broken.

Exit strategy.
Ownership.

Investing in women and girls

This isn’t about favoring women over men but a simple acknowledgement of the gross imbalance of power and opportunities in the world. It would be false and misleading to say that investing in women will dramatically impact the world without first acknowledging the “why” behind such a dramatic statement. In short, investing in women and girls will dramatic impact the local communities and world because in many parts of the world, the gifts and personhoods of girls and women are often overlooked, ignored, and forgotten. Thus…half the sky.

In short, the oldest injustice in human history is the way we treat women.

Consider this – research demonstrates that girls who complete seven years of schooling will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than girls who do not complete primary school. Yet even though the economic and social returns of investing in girls are undeniable, World Bank research demonstrates that only two pennies of every dollar in international aid funding goes to support programs for girls.

In Davos last month at the World Economic Forum, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told world leaders that girls are the key to ending global poverty. Investing in girls is now proven to be one of the most cost effective strategies to improve health, education, and economic outcomes for poor countries around the world.

Just like the girl on the train, there are 600 million girls living in poor countries who struggle to eat, attend school, and see a doctor when they need one. These girls could be our own daughters – bright, eager to learn, with dreams and hopes for the future. These girls could become doctors, entrepreneurs, and leaders of their countries. These girls could change the world.

Reality, however, is very different. Most of these girls are forced to work while their brothers attend school, suffer abuse in their families, and experience violence in their communities. They are too often married off as children to men three times their age, and give birth to daughters whose lives will follow the same cycles of exploitation…

The world’s 600 million girls are our greatest return on investment. The time has come for our dollars to follow our research and our rhetoric. As a global community, we can no longer afford to look away. [link]

We must invest in women and girls around the world – as an affirmation of dignity that we can never give but as a reminder of that which has been already given to them by God.

“Diana Keesiga is an example of a young woman who is changing her community and world. Diana is a strong young woman who saw a problem in her community and decided to learn how to fix it.”

I believe in this so much.
How much?

Well, the board at ODW extended a $75,360 matching grant in our collaboration with The Adventure Project. Meaning, we believe in this in the amount of $37,680.

Development is messy but if done well, it can make a significant impact in the lives of people and communities. This Saturday is World Water Day…and I invite you to join me and others.

Invest in the Dianas. Invest in People. Invest in Water.

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4 Responses

  1. Bruce Strom says:

    Thank you! Please continue to push this message. Way too much aid flows out of this country through paternalistic channels. If our purpose is developing the God-given talent within each person (male and female), then it is absolute arrogance to believe we have all the answers and need to help those poor, destitute people. Even your photos convey the right message instead of advancing a stereotype. I don’t hear this message often enough so deeply appreciate your servant leadership in this.

  2. […] into this process of discerning how to handle my male privilege. Yesterday morning, I encountered a blog post that touches on exactly that […]

  3. […] this is a great post by the leader of One Day’s Wages… please read! […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Bittersweet month but so much gratitude to my team at @onedayswages. January marks a major transition as 2 of our 3 full time staff move on to their next chapters.

@melissasarapack (2nd from left) has been with me for nearly 4 years - first as our Development Director and then our Communications Director. This was her 2nd stint with me as she was my Live Music & Art Director at @QCafe many years ago. Thank you, Cush, for your friendship and commitment. You embodied our values and it kept moving us forward.

@philipkeeton (far left) has been with me for nearly the entirety of ODW. That's a long time. We've had our shares of ups and downs but  he's one of a kind. He was my right hand person that provided great leadership for our scrappy team of staff, volunteers, and interns. PK: Brother, you're gonna be missed but so excited for your next season. I didn't say this enough: I appreciate you. Thank you. And I hate Alabama football.

Changes are tough but it's also an opportunity for introspection and going deeper. I'm excited to introduce our next Ops Director next month and we're still looking for the right Communications Director. And Kenzie: What a gift to have you on our team.  Thank you. Be humble.

The world is bigger than your view of the world. And certainly, God is much bigger than your view of God.

#RedwoodTrees
#Deeper #RootsMatter 41 years ago today, our family immigrated to the United States from Seoul, South Korea. I was six years old; the youngest of three sons. My father, when he was also six, fled from what is now known as North Korea. Just recently, he shared with me that he and some of his family had been in a refugee camp when war and violence broke out on the Korean peninsula. It's emotional thinking about what my brothers and I went through coming to a completely foreign country. It wasn't easy. And then, I think about what my parents had to go through:

They fled their homes near Pyongyang which also meant leaving some of their extended families.

They experienced unfathomable hunger and poverty.

They experienced the pain of war.

They immigrated again to the United States as adults with minimal resources and a handful of English words.

All in hopes that their children would have the opportunities that were never afforded to them.

I'm thinking of my brothers today. I'm thinking of my parents and honoring them for their sacrifice and tenacity. And finally, I'm thinking of refugees and immigrants all around the world that are yearning for family, peace, hope, and opportunities. Don't reduce Martin Luther King Jr. to a yearly quote on social media. Live out the dream. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Confront evil. Be a truth-teller. Seek justice. Love mercy. Pursue reconciliation. Build bridges. Love your neighbors. Forgive your enemies. Pray unceasingly. Live a committed life of peace, love, and justice.

The God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today.

Be brave. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's the full context of his famous quote: "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." An important word for the Church...

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