23 February 2011

Kabbalah Center in Malawi? Not a Great Idea.

Nekesa Mumbi Moody reports for the AP on the challenges experienced by Madonna's charity in Malawi.
Logistical problems and other concerns have led Madonna to abandon her plan to build a girls-only school in Malawi, but the new leader of her effort says the superstar instead plans many more schools with educational groups already working toward that goal.

"Basically, what we'd be doing is expanding the ability for a group of nonprofits to provide education to more kids," said Trevor Neilson in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday...

"Madonna increasingly began to have concerns about the effectiveness of the existing strategy and management team, and as a result has made sweeping changes in order to better serve more children in Malawi," he said.
The same broken record keeps on playing, "It ain't easy." Plenty keep on saying it, but maybe it is at too low of a volume. Or could it be outside the auditory range for most? The charity has brought on some experienced players, but it has the opportunity to fail. The funder has a little bit of money.

So, it is great that all this money can continue to be poured into the project. Changes can be made based on failures and the charity adapted. The openness to admitting failure and making changes is something to praise. It can also become a money suck.

Building a Kabbalah Center in a nation which is 80% Christian, 13% Muslim and under 0.1% Jewish is not only a bad idea, but likely to be culturally insensitive. Yet it highlights how disconnected ideas about what is 'needed' can be when approaching the situation from a perspective of 'I am in a position to help you.'

Rather than showing up with what is thought to be the answer to all of the problems, why not use the experience and expertise of those who have been doing it for decades? Madonna seems to be learning (as has Sean Penn for that matter), but let's stop encouraging these kind of top-down solutions. Maybe, celebrities like the former married pair, can use their experience to discourage others from making the same mistakes.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: The Guardian