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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Morality And Realism in Development Work

As 8 university-educated adults stand outside a greenhouse, struggling to construct a working water-collection system, the doubts in our ability to make a concrete difference can't help but arise. Coming into this project, we were supplied with one double-sided page illustrating the project aims and achievements. It stated that our task was to aid women in the Altiplano to grow vegetables in both in greenhouses and outdoors. The goals were to provide an income, allowing them to stay home with their children rather than leaving them at home alone while they work, as well as improving the diet of those in their community.

Working on filtering the ground to be put into Emiliana's greenhouse.

Standing back and looking proudly over our functioning water-system and our newly planted lettuce, (the first vegetables to be planted in the greenhouse of Emiliana, achieved after much time and energy spent preparing the ground with appropriate earth and compost) a sense of relief overcomes us. We have long since accepted that we are not going to solve the major issues of malnutrition and children being left alone at home for the entire population of the Altiplano in our three month project with Focopaci. We are, however, happy with our achievement in the possibility of solving this issue for one family of four children and their mother.

Establishing a water collection system at Emiliana's greenhouse, both for watering the plants and drinking, when filtered.

I have always found the amalgamation of morality and realism disturbing. With so much work needing to be done, how do we accept the limits of our abilities in a manner in keeping with our virtues? During my decision-making period of volunteering overseas, I found myself paralysed in aiding those too distant to meet my gaze, too powerless to restrain, whose voices carried no weight. I wondered then, as I do now, if I am really so different.

Preparing the ground for planting at the house of Doña Alicia.

I know very well that I am not the solution to the subject of poverty. But what does it mean to be part of the solution? While I by no means consider myself an expert regarding the solutions of the foundations of poverty, I am certain that by cultivating a respect for the earth and each other through spending time with the ground on which we stand in the company of those with whom we share a sincere respect, we can begin to find the solutions to many of the great problems facing the world at this fragile time in human history. 

With the children of Emiliana, having planted lettuces in the greenhouses.

Written by Nick Bartholdy

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