A year in a Slum

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tomdesigns

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quote=Mitch;168991]Give your new homies money and social standing and they will be as big or bigger scumbags than those you speak of.[/quote]
Mitch said:
You made me introspect. Would you know of a slum that would have me? And with all the bakeries around, I can bring them cake.

Strange thing.. ignorance and you can find it in most peculiar places. Give your new homies money! My new homies know I have money and they treat me no different than people around here without money. Hmmm interesting..

I can bring them cake… I would like to see that. I do not bring cake to anyone here but that might be a good starting point for you..
Would you know of slum that would have me?

You’re so talented educated and gifted. You can think clearly and process thought thru your education. You can make decisions and plans thru your education. You can seize opportunities with your intellect.
Yet you mock men, women and children that do not have your luxuries and gifts.
 

tomdesigns

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trennod said:
I think these kind of points, when explained and demonstrated appropriately really could inspire others as well. I think (if possible), a blog with photos could be a good idea.

I had no idea what I was in for.. and we have all seen the photos on TV.. and other places. I had seen those things all my life on TV in the US, I used to have an account with feed the children.

But nothing compares to the reality.. as I said in an early post. When they burn their garbage with their waste in it my nostrils burned for days. There is no photo or blog post that can convey that.

There is nothing that can make you or me understand this unless you live in it. And I believe that is why it is over looked by us because we do not live in it, never have and never would.

Seeing a photo of dirty poor child is one thing. Having that dirty poor child standing in front of you is completely different.

Looking into those eyes with a first world education and some understanding of this place.. Well again I do not have words.
 

tomdesigns

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perpetualholiday said:
ElQueso, thank you for sharing this. I don't know you at all, but the last time you wrote about the conditions your wife's relatives were living in (here in BA!), I talked about it with my partner for days--how do we help people here?.

The help would take radical changes and money is not the answer. First education but even that is not quite enough because on the other side is a lack of opportunity.

And only opportunity can in IMHO defeat the depression that is strong in the minds here. You grow up poor looking at your depressed elders in poverty. Even with some education that is hard to overcome and add to that an economy lacking opportunities.

Many come out of the womb into nutrition problems that will automatically handicap them and then they are trapped for life, right from the start. The culture itself is bent towards failure. I do not mean that offend anyone. So in reality many cannot be helped, except for more of the same handouts they are stuck in.

So all that being true the only thing.. as I had in the US growing up. Nutrition, Education and Opportunity. All of which are not flowing here for the poor.
 

arlean

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First, there was nothing pompous about Tom's post. If you try to do something good, someone around will always criticize. It goes with the territory. Thank you, Tom, for sharing this with us. It means a lot to me.

Next, government can never fix this. All governments ever do is mess things up plus socialism is always opportunity for goverment graft. Plus it is dishonest. If it is a crime for me to hold a gun and take money out of your wallet for my benefit, then getting a politician to do it for me is also a crime. Plus I've read sociological analysis of what has happened to black famiies in the US due to government welfare. Yes it gets the politicians votes, but it destroys the famliies. And now we have generations that have grown up expecting someone to take care of them.

My kudos still go to El Queso. I really think he is on the right track. I'm giving serious thought as to how I can use his ideas in my own travels. I do know, from working in the rescue mission, that a LOT of people in the US don't want to work, they want to be supported and they learn how to work the system. I was always happy for the few who would take the ball and run with it. But it may not be so difficult where things have not been so easy. However, there is one successful businessman in Montana who was not like that. He was given an idea as to what he could do and he took that choice. You wonder what makes people different. Today he owns a tire company. He was on the street and received help and mentoring by someone from the mission. When the connection was first made, the kid was up on someone's car hood, jumping on it. That was one of the success stories you hang on to when you have so many disinterested in helping themselves.

Plus I and my companion once sat in a restaurant here in Argentina, next to a very nicely dressed couple eating the same kind of food we were, acting just like us, who used the mealtime to drill their child in begging. We actually stopped conversation to listen to the process. I'd say the kid was about three. That made me skeptical of handing money to begging chlidren. I do if they are performing or doing something to earn it because they are . . . well . . . attempting to offer a benefit so I keep money on hand for that. In India (yeah, I know we aren't in India) parents will even disfigure a child to make them a more successful begger. If you give to them you encourage parents to disfigure their children. You might want to help, but it's a tough thing trying to know what is best to do.

I think El Queso is on track. His wife wanted to send them $50 a month but he said no, and found a way that would really change their lives. It was incredibly wise. Plus it was personal, not some government bureaucrat sending them a check for them to go buy who-knows-what with. Plus I think he was working with good people who were willing to work. This is a great thread for people who really care about making a difference. I know one thing, I sure have to improve my spanish!!!!!
 

chris

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Quite a few years ago I met an Eastern Rite priest at a hotel in Ecuador. We began a conversation and he told me that he was going to visit a villa later in the day as he had a British Catholic priest friend who lived there. I agreed and we set out. The priest lived very comfortably on the edge of the villa. He was well respected by the community as he had done a lot to improve their lives, coming into conflict with the politicians as a result. When we went into the church he pointed out the faces on the stations of the cross which had been painted by a member of the parish. Christ's torturers, the priest informed me, had the faces of Ecuadorian politicians and government ministers in power at the time!
 

Mitch

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surfing said:
I could...

You´re comment is not pompous or ignorant exactly, but it is a waste of two words and counter productive.
 

ElQueso

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Arlean, thanks for the kudos. I try to do what I can and sometimes it seems like it will never be enough even for my wife's family, much less expanding something beyond that. I don't talk about this much because it often seems to be, even for expats living here, a distant kind of thing to them. They look at me when I do talk about it, amazed that I would tilt at windmills, and then tell me it's admirable (all the while I can see them thinking "thank god I'm not like that!" Heh).

But every once in a while you have to spread the memes that do some good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

Tom, you're extremely spot on with the nutrition as well. Cleft palete is very common, as an physical example and something I'm fmailiar with. My wife's younger brother, now 11, has a cleft palete. He was a fraternal twin. His sister got some of the scarce nutrition available in the womb that he needed. He's very intelligent, fortunately not affected mentally. Due to my wife's persistence, he finally got a couple of surgeries, with a couple of more to come, to close up his sinus passages, which were open to his mouth inside. When he was a baby, they only bothered to close the exterior, his lip and part of his nose on the side.

Kudos to Smile International. American (North and South!), British, European, Paraguayan, etc. (I don't know the whole list of countries, just the ones my wife told me about), doctors donating their time to come to places like Paraguay and give these kids closure in many senses of the word. My wife went to Asuncion and met her mother and brother there to help them talk to the doctors and figure things out. There were people there as old as their early twenties who were looking to get horribly disfiguring cleft paletes closed up.

My wife was extremely impressed with the whole organization. The doctors were nice, helpful and had great bedside manners. They did a great job all around.

But the ignorance in the poor places in the world can be astounding and extremely painful to experience.

I have a few stories of needless death, witchcraft cures (and curses!), poverty and ignorance so extreme that it's really unbelievable that it goes on in this day and age. Thus my comments about sending money via something some one has seen on TV. There is no understanding and no changing of the problem without seeing it firsthand.

Tom, my hat is indeed off to you, dude. Not many people give enough thought or care to much more than their own lives. I don't blame them, I was certainly that way once. I just would like it to be different.

My hat's off to everyone that bothers to do more than just give handouts to bums they see on the street.

Arlean is very correct about the kids looking for money and how they are coached. Anywhere you see a kid begging in the streets, there's a more than good chance that the kid's older brother, sister, or parents are somewhere close.

A month or two ago, I was out driving around 9 pm or so, and was stopped at Callao and Santa Fe at a light. A family, fairly well dressed (not ragged), with a few store bags that looked brand new, crossed the street in front of me. A man and a woman, and four kids. I had my window open. The two youngest kids looked over, broke off from the family and came over and asked me for money. The father looked back, the family had finished crossing the street, and never said anything. I told the kids no and they ran back to the family.

Then there are the kind of beggars like the early twenty-year old guy that accosted a friend and I about six months ago while sitting outside TGI Friday at Alto Palermo. Healthy looking guy carrying a baby. He's not skinny, somewhat muscular. He's with a "partner in crime" guy, about same age and condition, also with a baby. The first guy comes up and asks us for money over the fence between the eating area and the public walkway along Colonel Diaz. My buddy and I are in the middle of a conversation. The beggar interrupts us asking for money. My buddy tells him no and tries to continue what he was saying. The bum becomes insistent, going on about how he needs money to feed his poor baby (as healthy looking as the father). Now I tell him no and tell him he's being rude interrupting a conversation. He walks off mumbling "la puta madre blah blah blah."

I know there are jobs available (for now - I don't know what things are going to look like in months). My wife has gotten a job for every single one of her family members that have come here, including cousins. They may not be jobs that people would particularly like to do, but they are honest means of support. The thing is, for some people it's easier to beg than to work hard. That's just the way the world is and I have a real problem seeing it, but there's not a damned thing you can do to help those people unless they want to help themselves.

BTW - I'm not completely indifferent to beggars on the street. But I assess their condition before I think about contributing anything.

But the best way to do help people, as Tom very astutely points out, is to give them opportunity not just money.

To me, the best way to provide opportunity is to provide knowledge, money and example. Leadership. It's something people in poor countries sorely lack. The memes need to be changed. The only way to do that is by getting into things locally and start spreading ideas.

I think you have to do it in a manner that the people you are trying to help can understand. Culture is a tricky thing, I'm beginning to understand more and more as I live here and travel to Paraguay and experience life there. There are times when I believe something like a benevolent monarchy is required, to an extent.

I can speak best to Paraguayan culture when I say this, but I have seen signs of it in Argentina as well: the culture rings strongly of feudalism. Twisted and lacking such concepts as noblesse oblige, to be sure.

In Paraguay, the method I'm considering may well resemble a lord and his people. Keep in mind, I'm talking about a very poor part of Paraguay and not all of the rest of this may pertain to other situations. I'm sure I'm going to get all kinds of comments about pomposity and such :)

You have to understand that to connect with people so poor that some of their parents either never went to school or many often didn't make it out of grammar school, and see people with money and education as lords (I'm serious), you can't just go in there like a happy-go-lucky foreigner and start throwing money and ideas around hoping they stick.

I want to buy an estancia. I want to make it a going concern, with cattle and probably horses, pasture for my animals and also to rent at a cheap price to those who need land to graze cattle - that's a big problem for some, to provide not only the land, but also the water and grass needed to feed the animals.

I also want to plant some hectares and provide work for people around the area who have no opportunites. Depending on how much money I have, I can see also doing things like buying a couple of tractors for plowing, a couple of harvesters maybe. Those can be rented out at cheap prices for those who are currently using oxen (I kid you not) to plow their fields. The harvesters may detract a bit from employment opportunites - that has to be looked at at first at least.

I won't be looking to make money for myself, just enough to support the operations. Including organizing the work force I'd hire into a company-like environment. Teaching hard workers how to make sure supplies are purchased and tracked and accounted for and moving them into positions of authority. Making the workers partners with profit-sharing to provide incentives. Paying them a decent salary.

But having no mercy on those who try to take advantage, steal or don't work.

In the meantime, we'd be making contacts among the local population, with the help of my wife's family. We'd be looking for good opportunities for people that have land but are in need of infrastructure. Simple stuff like wells, pumps and simple irrigation systems. We'd offer them loans, but with conditions. They would have to partner with us to accomplish their goals. We'd sit down with them, help them figure out the best way to proceed, and then go through the process with them of implementing the work, offering (requiring in many conditions before the loans are made) classes in basic money handling, agricultural and business subjects such as what crops to plant when and how to take care of them, free market concepts, etc.

It would be slow-going, for sure. I don't want the operation to get too big too fast, to make sure that the best opportunities are given a chance and the most efficient use is made of what will be a limited supply of money that must be marshalled.

But one thing I see coming from loaning money to farmers that can increase their yields and bring in more valuable crops is employment. It will start with the family themselves who own the farm. At first they may just employ all of their own family, which is a good start. The more successful they are, the more people they will need to hire. Maybe at first just during planting and harvesting, but eventually maybe to help maintain and work the crops as well.

Each farmer that I can help in that manner will hopefully become a little engine of (relative) wealth production. Enough of those and things will begin to rise in the area.

I'll never forget a trip I made with my father-in-law and one of my brothers-in-law. I forgot to mention that another thing my wife's family has managed to buy was a Ford pickup, about 15 years old, 2 1/2-ton capacity. It barely operates at times due to lack of maintenance, but it gives them an advantage when used properly.

We were going to collect harvested sesame from people. This was one of the times he was trying to do wholesale buying and sell it to the sesame company. I wasn't familiar with enough of what was going on at the time to have questioned the profitability of what he was doing.

Anyway, we stopped at various little farms throughout the area weighing big bags of harvested sesame. They would pull out a couple of metal rods, tie one of them vertically to a tree branch, attach the other one horizontally to a point on the vertical rod, and use lead weights to weigh the bags. We'd load the bags in the pickup, pay off the farmer and go on to the next farm.

One of these was very, very poor. They had about a third of a hectare that they were cultivating. We stopped in front of a small wooden shack with a grass roof, about 40 sq mts in size, looking like it might fall over if I huffed and puffed. The señor was in his mid-thirties but looked like he was at least 50. His wife had died a couple of years ago. He had three kids, one of them a teenaged girl dressed in almost nothing, and that barely hanging on her it was so ratty. She was filthy, her hair uncombed. She was holding a baby - it was hers. A boy and a girl, don't remember precisely their ages but they were under ten, were running around buck naked and grimy.

The guy had three bags to sell and received about 500,000 guarani for his crop. That's about $120 USD today.
 

kat

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I spent time in Zambia, where I met amazing people, who were economically very poor, but had a true appreciation for life, making them rich in a more profound sense. What was lacked and truly desired were opportunities to advance with self sustained growth rather than dependency.
On that note, this is a non profit that I think has great ideas.
http://www.kiva.org/about
 

starlucia

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But the best way to do help people, as Tom very astutely points out, is to give them opportunity not just money.

To me, the best way to provide opportunity is to provide knowledge, money and example.

Honestly, this is the strongest argument for the need for free, safe abortions in South America. No woman should be forced to bring a 4th, 7th, or 10th human into the world when she can't feed the ones she already has. Access to free birth control and sex education are a start, but they are never going to be effective enough in a culture that allows women virtually no agency.
 

jazrgz

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Eclair said:
We are lucky - that's what we are. Who would have thought living in a slum is terrible? :rolleyes:

And what is the solution? What can "we" do? You do realize that the poor outnumber those that have, yes? That we can't give... that systems and governments need to be changed so that people can stand on their own two feet?

I wouldn't be ashamed, I'd be outraged :mad: that there are governments that keep their people down by terrible policies and creating a population dependent on handouts because they have few other alternatives. I'd be angry that the slums are filled with immigrants while there's plenty of Argentines suffering. (Not that I don't feel for the plight of these people as well, but resources aren't exactly plentiful. Have you seen state schools?) I too was shocked at the kids begging on the street, the ones standing sometimes alone on busy medians washing windshields or juggling. :( Or 7 year olds traveling on the metro or bus alone and collecting money during school hours. It's sad and it shouldn't happen, but there's no magic solution except to create a more prosperous country through industry, innovation, education, and hard work. In other words, a lot of sacrifice... but it's just easier to vote for "futbol para todos!" It's the same ones that suffer that vote for crooked governments that make silly promises that don't really do anything to help them get ahead long term. These changes must come from within.

I don't know what villa you were in, but I live in an area surrounded by poor... they live however they can. Many do have electricity and water. By the way, you can shower with as little as two buckets of water... it's tough in the winter for sure, but I've done it. If you can boil a gallon or so (over a fire or on a stove) and pour it in a bucket mixing it with cold water to bring to a comfortable temperature, you can sponge bathe or at least spot clean. Europeans figured this out centuries ago. Actually I think their situation could be much improved if they put a little more effort into their standard of living. You don't have to be rich to gather your trash and not spread it out in huge piles alongside the road, either. :p

There might not be "villas" in the US or other first world nations, but there's always poor neighborhoods. It's just a lot more widespread in Argentina. In a country rich in natural resources and a relatively educated population, I wouldn't place blame elsewhere except on the governments here.

I agree 100%. The day we argentinians stop blaming others for our own problems, that day we may start having a chance of fixing it..in the meantime...blame the US and other countries and keep electing the most corrupted options to run our gvmnt... :S
 
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