Poverty is more than material poverty which means it takes more than material resources to alleviate poverty. One of the ways North Americans demonstrate our lack of understanding of this is with Resource Paternalism. Brian Fikkert and Steve Colbert explain resource paternalism in When Helping Hurts, “Being from a materialistic culture, North Americans often view the solution to poverty in material terms and tend to pour financial and other material resources into situations in which the real need is for the local people to steward their own resources. In addition, local businesses can be undermined when outsiders bring in such things as free clothes, or building supplies, undercutting the price that these local businesses need to survive.”
Paternalism is doing for someone else what they can do for themselves. We can also make paternalistic assumptions about what is needed, what is causing problems (and the solutions), and even that we are the only ones who can help a situation. Fighting paternalism is trusting that God is working in all lives and that if we are patient we can see it and know where is our point of engagement.