An Account by Carlos Padula
In 1984, a group of Venezuelan young people decided to fund a microcredit foundation to help families in a slum called La Dolorita in the city of Caracas. During 8 months we trained families that lived there to teach courses in accounting, management and marketing in order to transform their businesses from an informal economy to a semi- formal economy. Many of these families had bakeries, tire garages, laundries and small stores where they offered their services at a loss. Their businesses where not profitable. Once we started to teach and work with them, we saw these families learn to manage their businesses and become prosperous. A transformation also occurred on a social level, as subjective dignity transformed the objective poverty they lived in. The new-found joy in the families motivated us to work even harder to recruit more young people to help us reach out to as many families as we could and help them achieve this sense of dignity in La Dolorita.
After a year and a half of success stories and achievements, I began to feel frustrated because no matter how hard we worked, or how many people we helped, the poverty grew faster. I began to question whether poverty has a solution. Was it worth trying to fight something that outgrew us every day no matter what we did? This existential questioning went on for months until in 1985 a group of us had the opportunity to go to Washington and meet with Mother Teresa. I voiced my frustrations to her about my futile efforts vis a vis the growing rate of poverty. Her face grew severe and she looked me sternly in the eye:
"Poverty is a problem caused by humanity, and so it is a problem that humanity must fix, not you alone. If you take care of one person you are helping a whole world. If every one of us helps another, we can solve humanity’s problem. When you finish helping one person, help another, and when you are done with that one, start with another one. There will be one day when you look up to the sky and will see it covered in stars and these will not be enough for all the people you have helped. You will then notice that you have not only helped one person but a whole universe. One day one of these stars will remind you that you helped her and you will not remember when or how because it is not in our nature to accumulate but to give”.