iDevelopment: Steve Jobs, simplicity and ending poverty

Whether or not you own a “magical piece of glass” (as Apple likes to refer to it) such as an iPhone or an iPad, you might be familiar with the products and why people like them.

What if I told you that just as Apple is to the electronics industry, Food for the Hungry (FH) takes a similar approach in working to end poverty around the world?

The Apple Philosophy

Over the past ten years, the world has been captivated by the resurgent Apple, Inc., and maybe even more so by its brainiac founder, the late Steve Jobs.

On August 16, the Apple story will be highlighted through the blockbuster film, “Jobs”. But while the story of Jobs is nothing short of a modern Shakespearean comedy, the truth of his global stardom stems from his philosophy applied to a complicated set of products.

This philosophy supports that simplicity is the greatest feature that can be offered in creating complicated pieces of technology. In his biography, Jobs is quoted saying:

“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

The FH Philosophy

Similarly, the work of fighting poverty around the world is a labyrinth of complicated factors and influences. Various cultural and political considerations need to be made in relation to the geographical, economical and environmental contexts of each community.

FH feels God has called us to wade through this complexity and find solutions to inspire hope and end poverty for the world’s most vulnerable. Interestingly enough, FH has adopted a similar philosophy in its approach to fighting poverty as Steve Jobs did in creating computers and personal electronics!

While FH understands and acknowledges the numerous factors each community faces, we have found that the best way to impact the lives of the poor is to work on a few important and proven areas of development that will maximize effectiveness.

It is not a matter of “simplifying for simplifying’s sake”. But just as Jobs found, it is the most successful way to bring about change. Jobs explains:

“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there.”

So what does FH do to simplify the way we fight poverty? We focus on four primary areas of development with proven results in creating positive change in the lives of the poor. Let’s break it down:

Health: A community needs to be able to meet the basic requirements for life. FH walks with communities to establish the needed facilities and services to provide essential health services such as clean water, access to basic medical care, and disease prevention. We also provide vital education for maternal health, proper sanitation measures, and identifying health issues.

Livelihoods: We understand that in the pursuit of ending poverty, it is critical to help communities make a living. FH walks with communities to setup livelihood activities, in addition to assisting them in gaining access to markets. These activities come in the form of skills training, agricultural development, and setting up savings groups.

Education: Nelson Mandela once proclaimed, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” FH agrees, and therefore works with communities to educate their next generation of leaders in the hopes of breaking the cycles of poverty.

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): Natural disasters are some of the biggest deterrents to sustained progress in vulnerable communities around the world. For this reason, FH helps communities prepare for chronic and/or surprise disasters that a particular community might face. Building resiliency is both wise and effective.

We do all of this within the framework of a biblical worldview. We have faith that God will lead His people. Therefore, we feel a calling to inspire hope while we walk with vulnerable communities. “Simple can be harder than complex… once you get there, you can move mountains.” FH is trying to move mountains. Our mountain is ending poverty. Will you join us?

About David Curtis

David is passionate about two things: Walking with the poor, and the New England Patriots. His interest in understanding and advocating for the poor began while spending the summer in rural South Africa, where he worked alongside a fellow 19 year old at an orphanage. The juxtaposition of life as a privileged American, with that of a determined yet struggling friend and peer from the Global South, began the trajectory of a calling to walk with the poor. Since then he has spent time working in South Africa, Indonesia and Haiti. David graduated from Calvin College as a Social Studies Teacher, combining a passion to teach with that of learning. A potent combination that strives to bring "Mutual Transformation" to the world. Go Pats!

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