It has been challenging to really identify an organization I’d like to intern/work for in the near future. It’s hard to always say whether an organization is working towards addressing the structures or the symptoms of poverty and inequalities. There are some interventions that are clearly Band-Aids, who are just providing alleviation through monetary resources or services, but there are also interventions that become muddy in their mission. I say this because I believe there are good-hearted people out there that start interventions with the purpose of really changing the structures of inequalities, by aiming to truly empower individuals or communities through trainings or education on the system that oppresses them but then are often blocked by the constraints that society opposes on them. This reality of society is hard to overcome, which drains people and discourages, diverting them from their main purpose. Nelson Mandela brings up the point that his and his inmates’ survival depended on understandings on what the authorities were attempting to do to them and sharing that understanding with each other. This is empowering and in our society, the oppressed must act this way as well and become conscious of what the oppressor’s purpose is in order to becomes ones that won’t fall under that trap and won’t be controlled by outsiders to later need their bandages.
That sounds ideal, but oppression, segregation, racism and all other odds against equality of all human rights are so deeply embedded that it makes not needing bandages a difficult one. Malcom X in 1964, sounded very optimistic saying they were no longer going to turn the other cheek against all the domination of the white-man and it has obviously become a continuous struggle where Band-Aids have become the to-do thing for various reasons. In the case of my practice experience, I can interpret the intervention absolutely being a Band-Aid. It provided vaccinations and food to families. But because it was a prototype intervention that was being tested, it automatically can be seen as a Band-Aid to that community. And when we think of Band-Aids we can also think of the well known quote, “something is better than nothing” or Laura Beck’s comment, “We must focus on what we can fix right now”; those women participating in Health of Urban Poor, received their vaccinations and received food for their families, and most importantly and closest to attacking the actual root of poverty, received education about healthier practices, empowering them to hopefully pass that on. But looking at the bigger picture, the mission of Health of the Urban Poor was never really addressed. The poor infrastructures that contribute to poor health in those communities were never addressed or worked on for improvement. The policies that segregate those communities were not addressed. The way people of those communities think about open defecation, as what their ancestors have practiced for hundreds of generations, weren’t changed. There are several factors in which contribute to what Paul Farmer refers to as biosocial reality. Reflecting on my experience, I can see there was a biosocial reality of course that’s not to say that the outsiders decisions doesn’t play a role in it, but it was obvious that practices and or beliefs of the community members were part of their practices that often times weren’t the most hygienic or most healthiest.
I can’t help but admit that when I give someone who is hungry a bite to eat, I feel satisfaction. Or when I help someone with the littlest thing to move forward onto the next step to where they are heading, I feel good inside. I can’t explain why I feel this way but I know that I too have been on the other side, where there have been times where I desperately need a boost to get over a fence or a push to get onto the next step to where I’m going and it’s helped me to keep going and move forward whether that be a loan in money, a ride somewhere, or also a bite to eat when I’ve been stranded somewhere without food. I know these things are not on the same level of bandaging extreme poverty related issues but I like Laura Beck, also believe that structures should be addressed, but that doesn’t mean symptoms cannot be. I can agree with others that say addressing structures are of higher importance, but also think that while getting there, band-aids can be placed. From this I can see how missions of interventions that plan to attack oppressor’s structures can come out of focus, but presently in the moment, how can one not help with symptoms if the opportunities are there? Hopefully through my writing you can see that I stand in the middle of this because it is hard to say realistically what my motivations are related to. I can say that of course I would love to work towards changing the structure, but it is a difficult task and I wouldn’t want to become over critical of those who are addressing the symptoms, because if I were to, I would most likely bury myself in anger and frustration as I watch at least some individuals get a boost, or a push in a better direction.