The Kireka slum clings to a stony hillside above Kampala, Uganda, home to at least 5,000 impoverished refugees who live in hand-fashioned shelters bordered by outdoor latrines. The hillside is not only home, but work: Strip quarries line its face. Men dig out its larger rocks, while hundreds of women spend their days in stooped manual labor, pounding the rocks by hand into walnut-sized stones for sale as construction material. They earn about $1.20 per day.
So American aid worker Amy Cunningham could scarcely believe it when she was summoned to Kireka last month for a festive celebration in which dozens of women handed over nearly $900 in wages: their gift to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
The problem, as I see it, is that these women who are always poorer than anyone in the US think that they need to give to these folks. It’s not that I am upset that these women are givers. I am not. They just don’t need to be giving to Katrina victims. Maybe the Katrina victims could collect for them.
Note: On of our Venezuelan missionaries, a Venezuelan who lives on $800 a month with his family, sent $400 and I was awed. I am also awed by these women. I just think that sometimes we in America forget how rich our poor are. Most of them. I know that there are some people who don’t have food and clothes, really, who are out on the street through no fault of their own. But for most (99% at least) the government offers options and charities often contribute options as well. Those women working for a buck an hour don’t have options like that. They don’t have FEMA giving them $2000 cards. They don’t have a cruise ship docked to take them in. And I think that we see their giving as an “ahh” moment, not an “oh my goodness, what have they done?” moment. It’s as if you saw someone who was hungry and you gave them an entire month’s salary, or a year’s. I don’t know about you but I don’t have that much money saved and the idea that these people are willing to part with what they need to eat, to give to people who are eating just fine, pops a bubble of illusion.