Before leaving for Zambia I was super excited for all the amazing blog posts I would be inspired to write while I was working there. Now having been back in New Zealand for over a week, with no blog posts written, one might expect an enthralling, tell-all essay to cover what was been an incredible trip. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
All I can muster is a series of bullet-pointed thoughts that were at the forefront of my mind during different parts of my trip:
- Poor people aren’t all lazy, but neither are they all hard workers. I met some both the laziest people I’ve ever seen and the hardest working people I’ve ever seen while in Zambia – they were all ‘poor’ and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future, almost entirely because of the environment they lived in.
- It’s so easy to take for granted the computer literacy we have developed from growing up with them all our lives. Even if ambitious attempts to bring digital tech to the hundreds of millions of world’s poor succeed, the lack of intuitive computer (not cell phone) skills amongst most of the developing world’s youth means the benefits flowing from rapidly advancing computer technology will continue to be source of global inequality for at least another generation.
- There are a myriad different kinds of poverty. The needs of and challenges facing people living on <US$1.25 vary wildly from doing so in a rural village, to those in a minor city, and to those in a large city. I think most anti-poverty campaigns could do a better job of appreciating this.
- Land cruisers may have become a lightning rod for criticism of large, out-of-touch development NGOs, but after seeing the quality of roads in parts of Zambia (despite massive and ongoing road building efforts) and the difficulty of access to many communities where NGOs work, it’s clear they’d often be (at times literally) wallowing in the mud without them.
- Perspective is a tricky issue, and it’s difficult to be able to properly and simultaneously grasp the big and small picture. I met a lot of people (including myself at times) who would use global or national statistics to paint pictures of unrealistic optimism, and a lot of people who would despairingly just throw their hands in the air at the seemingly stagnant and hopeless situation in their locale.
Hopefully I’ll be able to draw more on my time in Zambia in the future, but this is it for now. I also hope that getting this post on the board gives me some momentum to write more regularly.