This morning I received a phone call from Emmanuel, a Rwandan-Tutsi who miraculously escaped the genocide in 1994. During the 100 days when the murders were happening, 35 of his close relatives were killed. He told me how God has given him grace to forgive the perpetrators of the genocide and start a ministry for widows and orphans. (See his ministry’s website ERM Rwanda.) He went on to explain how he and other Rwandans do not want handouts. He described how the widows and orphans are starting small businesses and attempting to change their lives by contributing to their communities’ economic growth. He said he was excited about what he read on the Anda Leadership website and was calling to see if we could provide training for the people connected with his ministry.
I was unsure if he really understood our strategy. I have found that people like him often misunderstand two points. First, they hope that we will give them something of material value. For example, ERM Rwanda could hope that we would help them purchase sewing machines for their sowing businesses or provide equipment for their vocational-technical school. Second, even if they understand that we are not able to help them with material needs, they usually expect that we will come with a packaged program. Leaders in the developing world have learned that Americans say they want to help, but they want to help on their terms. Most Americans go with a preconceived program or product that they believe is needed. They don’t listen to what the local people say they need. Rather the well-intentioned Americans dump their offering and leave. This results in very little positive change and often actually harms the local people who get dumped on.
I was delighted that Emmanuel understood Anda Leadership’s ministry philosophy and that was why he called. He wants someone who will come and help the people learn how to become better business-people. Due to the genocide, they don’t have many role models. They don’t know how to grow their businesses. They really don’t want a handout. They want to know how to grow their businesses in their context. This is something we can provide. We expect that the answers they need are there. However, they need help finding the answers that are appropriate in their context. By the end of the conversation we were both excited and expectant as we agreed to take the next step in partnership together.