There will be as many different strategies to alleviate poverty as there are people who are drawn to the concept. Building on the definition of poverty from a few days ago (read here https://fortheloveofmissionsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/poverty/), Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert define poverty alleviation as “the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”
They go on to explain there are three approaches to poverty alleviation: Relief, Rehabilitation and Development. Relief is the provision of immediate needs after an emergency or crisis situation. Rehabilitation is the process of restoring people to their pre-crisis situation. Development is the process of walking in relationship as all those involved (the helper and the helped) move towards right relationships with God, self, others and the rest of creation.
I like to use the example of a natural disaster to demonstrate this. A tornado (or flood or hurricane) comes and takes out your home, you are in immediate need of relief: food, clothing, shelter, medical care. After the initial crisis, you enter in a process of rehabilitation in which you return to the situation you were in before the crisis hit. Finally development comes after the crisis is over as you move into a process of growth toward right relationships with God, self, others and the rest of creation.
Fikkert and Corbett challenge “One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make- by far is in applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.” Those who travel to areas of extreme material poverty see the need and want to help because it would be an emergency for us to live like that, unfortunately it is not an emergency but everyday life for people living in material poverty. North Americans want to react to their feeling of emergency with relief, but it is sending the wrong message to all involved. We, as North Americans, cannot continue to provide relief in situations where development is needed. Great damage is being done to the helpers and the helped when this happens.