Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Organizations in Swaziland

September 27th, 2010 No comments

Last week I shared with you that after nearly 3 years of research and planning, Beth and I accepted a position at Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland.  While we are very confident in our decision, we would remiss if we did not mention that there are countless other great organizations in Swaziland all doing great work.  I wanted to list a few of them in hopes that our research can be helpful to others who may make a similar journey:

  • Bulembu – This organization is truly doing holistic ministry: everything from infrastructure to orphan care to community enterprise to education.  The location in northwest Swaziland is beautiful and the people there are very committed to the vision of creating a sustainable community.  Bold vision with the drive to get things done.
  • Sifundanzi Primary – The first school we visited during our trip.  This charter school has governmental ties and subtle Christian influences.  The headmaster was kind enough to show us around the school while the children enjoyed a field day.  A highly regarded institution by everyone we met.
  • Usutu Forest Primary – We headed from Mbabane to Mhlambanyatsi to meet with another charter school.  Usutu Forest is of the same high caliber as Sifundzani, but seemed to be a bit more laid back.  We did meet one of the King’s daughters there.
  • Hawane Farm / Lighthouse Ministries / Teen Challenge / Potter’s Wheel Church – Jon and Jude Skinner were two of the first people we connected with (via email) in Swaziland.  They now help run the Hawane farm which provides practical training for recovering youth in the Teen Challenge program and also provides residential care for orphans.  These are all affiliated with Kevin Ward who runs the The Potter’s Wheel Church.
  • Sandra Lee Centre – This orphanage tucked away into a wooded section of Mbabane is doing some great stuff.  They run several orphan homes on site where up to 8 kids have a “home mother” who raises them.  Right now between 30 and 40 kids live at the Centre.  Michael and Robin, who run the centre, are great people with great hearts.
  • Baylor AIDS Clinic – In a country where the AIDS rate is nearly 40%, there is a need for top notch medical facilities and Baylor Clinic fits that bill.  Without doubt it is the highest regarded medical organization in the country.  In addition to Pediatric AIDS work (their focus) they also have a youth program for HIV positive youth.  /
  • Claypotts – This foundation is run by Ken Jefferson, a Scottish Pastor.  They supply funding to some of the most effective projects in the country.  We only intended to spend a few hours at Claypotts, but Pastor Ken took time out of his busy schedule to show us projects across the whole country; he is definitely a good guy to know.
  • TechnoServe – There are a lot of large NGOs active in the country and many of them are doing great work.  However, TechnoServe seems to rise to the top when it comes to providing big picture solutions for systematic problems.  Their work focuses mainly on economic development through sound business practices.
  • All Out Africa – Not everyone is ready to commit 5-10 years to a 3rd world country.  That is where places like All Out Africa come in.  They provide 3-6 month voluntourism opportunities for people looking to get involved in local communities for short term projects.
  • Children’s Cup – If you are looking for an evangelical mission organization doing good work in Swaziland, you must check out Children’s Cup.  They primarily do their work through Neighborhood Care Points and are active across the country.  Their director Ben Rodgers is a great guy and shared sound very sound wisdom with us during our visit. We have also been fortunate enough to connect with Mark and Kay Bojovic, two fine Christian missionaries.
  • PACT – Simply put, we would not have ended up at Cabrini Ministries if it was not for the wisdom of Todd Malone at PACT.  This organization manages NGO funding and provides capacity building for groups on the ground.  Todd, the director, has an excellent grasp of the situation in the country and how resources can best be used.  He insisted we visit Cabrini and knew we would end up there well before we did.
  • Caritas – This organization is affiliated and funded by the Catholic church with their main emphasis on social justice and empowerment.  They are involved in many areas of Swazi society with a strong history of practical faith.
  • UNISWA – During our time in the country we were able to visit the University of Swaziland.  While not an academic powerhouse by any means, it is certainly an institute of higher learning and is ground in the local community.  I would certainly be interested in pursing the possibility of teaching in their Religion and Theology department in the future.
  • Swaziland Skills Centres – The Manzini Industrial Skills Centre, which we visited, is one of three institutes that comprise the Swaziland Skills Centres.  These trade schools take youth who are on the fringe of society and offer them practical skills from auto repair to construction to upholstery, etc.
  • Moya Center – This small organization is run by Jane Cox and serves the youth in the Malkerns / Mahlanya.  They are active in a wide variety of projects for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children.  Their work with education and life skills training is particularly noteworthy.

In addition to the groups we visited there are several other organizations that are active and highly regarded in Swaziland:

There are probably another 20-30 organizations that we either researched or communicated with in preparation for our trip.  Just because they are not listed here does not mean they are not doing good work; many did work outside our skill set or were unreachable by email.

If you found this blog post while researching organizations in Swaziland, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions:

Why I hate capitalism

May 18th, 2010 5 comments

I have always struggled with the idea of capitalism even from an early age.  I guess I took my teachers seriously when I was told we should share our things.  It never seemed fair that some should have so much while other have so little.

But where did my deep seated disgust with the whole system develop?  I have traced it back to my first year of college at WKU.  I took a Micro Economics class as part of my Gen-ed requirements.  Overall I liked the class, and enjoyed the teacher (we are even friends), but there was one day that I found particularly disturbing.

We were learning about oligopolies and collusion; to demonstrate the effects, we performed a class exercise.  We were divided into two teams, each of which were responsible for selling similar widgets.  Each “day” one representative from each team would meet together and determine the cost of widgets for that day.  The first day we could either sell them for $10 or $12.  If we both decided to sell for $10 we would get $100 each, if we both decided to sell for $12, we would get $120 each.  However, if one of us sold for $10 and the other for $12, then the lower priced seller would earn $150 and the higher priced seller would earn $50.  This was intended to mimic the increased sales that would occur due to lower prices.

Of course there is a catch.  After the “representatives” met they would go back their teams and then determine what their prices would be.  It was at this point that teams could decide if they wanted to be honest or if they wanted to scheme and undercut their competitor.  We did this for five “days” and each day the prices would increase so by the end of experiment the widgets could sell for either $50 or $60 and the profits would be $500|$500 or $600|$600 or $750|$250.  Oh, and at the end of the game, the teams would be rewarded with bonus points on their next test.

If you follow the game it makes sense that at every meeting between teams you would both agree to set the higher cost.  If both teams are trustworthy you can earn 20% more that if both teams are dishonest.  However, if you can get the other team to trust you and you undercut them you earn 50% more (and the other team only earns 50% of what they would have). The game ended up being so disturbing to me I still remember exactly how it played out:

  • Round 1 – The stakes were low and both teams trusted each other.  Both teams charged the higher price and everyone profits
  • Round 2 – Both teams continued to trust each other, but my team thought that the only way to get ahead would be to strike early so we chose to undercut them and made the big profits.
  • Round 3 – (This was the round I was the negotiator for my team) – I was able to convinced the other team that the reason we went low was because we thought they were going to undercut us.  They believed me that our motives were defensive and not offensive (lies!).  We both agreed to trust each other and go with the higher price,  Then my team saw another opportunity to maximize their profits and intentionally uncut them again.
  • Round 4 – No one trust each other after being burned two rounds in a row and both teams charged the lower price
  • Round 5 – Again, both teams had no trust for each other and charged the lower price.

Here were the scores:

  • Round 1: $120 | $120
  • Round 2: $300 | $100
  • Round 3: $450 | $150
  • Round 4: $400 | $400
  • Round 5: $500 | $500

If we had all been honest all the time, everyone in the class would have received 14.4 bonus points (Both teams would have earned $1440).  If we had all be dishonest/untrusting we would have all earned 12 bonus points ($1200 each).  As it played out, my team won 17.7 bonus points and our competitors only got 12.7.

The experience still makes me uneasy when I think about.  It was the dishonesty and selfishness built into the system that really bothered me.  I was able to be better off because someone else wasn’t as fortunate.  On the other hand, the losing team received less because they were trusting and desired the best for everyone.

Obviously this is not how the system practically works in the real world, but the principles are right.  Everyone has to look out for their best interests and the only way you can do that is by hurting others.  If you are a buyer you are trying to get something for the lowest price possible, regardless of how much time, effort, or money the seller might have invested in the widgets; if you are the seller, you are going to try and extract the most money out of your product regardless of how much you have invested and what the buyers circumstances may be.

The system works and everyone benefits if people are honest, but once that trust is lost, everyone is worse off.

So… if you boil it down… the real reason I hate capitalism is because of a game I played once in a class where I was lucky enough to get extra bonus points because I was shrewd and dishonest.

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