Does charity help alleviate inequality or perpetuate it?

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17 January
20:08
26 January
20:22

It is totally understandable that some might think charity has a limited role in the reduction of inequalities, and that it may even help to reinforce some of the structures underpinning such disparities, perpetuating a relation of dependency between donor and recipient, rich and poor, powerful and vulnerable

However, when it comes to answering this question, it is necessary to consider the characteristics of the action we are referring to. Although in some contexts it results absolutely necessary and humane to provide a person with the basic material conditions to carry on with their lives, this action does not necessarily contribute to ameliorating this person´s position in the social structure, and eventually it perpetuates his/her dependency on the private or public structure of social provision.

On the other hand, there are interventions that seek to foster the set of skills of individuals or groups, so that they themselves are capable of expanding their possibilities for development, significantly improving their quality of life and their relative position in society; the incorporation of girls in formal education, training workers to improve their career prospects, providing financial education for families, educating women in contraception and family planning, are all actions that give individuals greater control over their lives.

In Crearte, for example, we seek to promote resilience, creativity and social skills in children from deprived areas of Santiago de Chile through artistic workshops held by college students that act as volunteers. Through the workshops we offer children a safe space for recreation, where they can establish closer relations with their peers and their communities. In this context, they get the chance to explore their own abilities in a space of trust and respect. Over the years we have seen how children significantly increase their sense of self worth and self efficiency, how they learn to relate to their environment in a less violent way, how they develop intellectual curiosity and artistic interests and how they broaden their expectations in life.

While it is naive to think that this kind of interventions of limited magnitude can help alleviate inequality substantially, these actions might improve the lives of many people to a great deal, helping them to get to resources and opportunities that would had been very difficult to access otherwise.

Someone might argue that is the role of the State to ensure that citizens' material living conditions and wellbeing are covered, however, these kinds of actions can give a response to issues that either are not a political priority or the government does not have the capacity to tackle in a particular moment in time. This is particularly true for developing countries, where public resources are restricted and the scope of public action is limited.

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