Saturday, September 13, 2008

When the creative wisdom of the crowds can fail

I read with interest the growing number of Malay-Muslim families and individuals seeking help from the Aidilfitri Charity Fund, a fund that was set up years ago to assist families who are in dire need of help, to get by with the festivities, and hopefully, beyond that.

What interest me is not so much the cause that they are set up for, in fact, it is something that I really believe in, i.e. where the members of the community who are abled and capable, chip in to help the less fortunate. But what is a concern to me is the rather ever increasing number of families who are seeking help. I mean shouldn't the overriding aim of setting up a charitable fund like this be the reduction or the socially (almost) impossible task of elimination of the poor and the destitute. Notwistanding the bout of inflationary pressures that are being experienced right now will surface families and individuals who are adversely affected by such an event, but shouldn't the fund in itself by somewhat of a 'root-cause' problem-solving tool, rather than something that would only be a symptomatic cure for what is being experienced by the community.

I still remember the voluntary work that I did over that last few years as part of the Yayasan Mendaki's Tiga M project (three 'M' here meaning 'Membaca' (Read), 'Mengira' (Count) and 'Menulis' (Write)) project. What really touched me is the fact that a greater majority of these participants are really willing to help themselves, though sometimes they are lacking very much in the 'Hows' and the 'Whens'...the 'Hows' because they are really at their wit's end as to how to go about to change the family around, and the 'When's' because they are really hindered by time as most of them would need to work instead of attending a training session, that might just be the tipping point to their family's living outcome. Nonetheless it was a humbling and enriching experience for me, and very much reminded me of where I came from.

But seriously, unless there is a deeper concerted effort to go about changing the situation and just applying the most of pills to just the symptomatic effects, the creative wisdom of the whole community, (of which we are quite well known for) will still falter in the areas of social re-engineering.

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