The poverty I knew, when I was younger, involved street-children in tattered clothes, holding out their palms asking for food, money, or anything one can spare. I see one and I would immediately feel bad. However, I do not remember asking anyone why they were like so. All I know was there was the Rich, and there was the Poor–and there was nothing I can do about it.
Fast forward 12 years later, when I finally set foot in the university, that I studied about the Vicious Cycle of Poverty–societal problems are caused and resulted in such, trapped in a structure that has no beginning nor end; and to break the cycle is to solve one or more aspect. There’s unemployment, educational inadequacies, diseases and a whole spectrum of health issues, problematic maternal healthcare, environmental degradation, underdeveloped areas due to poor, or lack of, road construction and transportation that make basic needs inaccessible, cultural conflicts, gender inequality, domestic violence, child exploitation, technological greed, to name a few. Alleviating one or more is not, ironically, as easy as feeding the empty stomach.
For what seems like forever, Development is what the world is striving/struggling to achieve, thus the existence NGOs, funding agencies, and aid institutions championing projects after projects aiming to alleviate poverty, in all its form. These projects may or may not entirely solve these societal problems, but they are carefully and intricately planned, designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated to uplift (marginalized) communities, groups, and individuals to address their needs, whether basic (food, shelter, clothing) or information-gap (educational, technological know-how, knowledge production, etc).
As I have gone through my undergraduate years, I experienced working with communities with development-needs that, in one or another, can be bridged by Communication. As students, we were christened as catalysts of social change–trained as (Development) Communication practitioners equipped with knowledge and skills on utilizing various forms of media for development-oriented initiatives in bringing about desirable social change. However, we were constantly reminded that Communication alone cannot eradicate poverty. There are more factors involved such as social context, resources, and more importantly the stakeholders that should be part from the inception all the way to the evaluation of development projects implemented. It’s like Hatching–an egg would not crack if there is no heat from the Mother hen nor if there is no life inside the shell pushing its way out (Cuyno & Lumanta, 1979, RMC-UPLB).
Somehow, somewhere, I found myself contemplating if I, as a ‘budding’ (Development) Communication practitioner, can really do my part in paying forward, so to speak. It is not like I am doubting my own knowledge and skills (but okay I do but that’s just self-esteem issues) but my concern is more on the complex structure of poverty itself that seems to multiply into more problems, instead of getting knocked down completely. It seems the more we (as change-agents) attempt to solve a problem, the more complications arise–and the effort exerted in these development activities are becoming physically, mentally, emotionally, and above all, financially taxing. And I do regret to admit that I ask this myself an awful lot of times, can we really achieve development?
I am moving my way into my studies, and perhaps, my career, under this premise. As I learn more about the methods, theories and principles of the role of Development Communication in social change, the more unsettled I get. When before I thought that feeding programs are enough to solve the problem of the poor, I found out that there are more actions to be done in achieving development than I can study, and apply in this lifetime–and that is something that I am still, after almost six years of study, trying to wrap my head around. If societal problems are, indeed, involved in a cycle, would it really/ever break–would it still be worth breaking?
As a (Development) Communication-Practitioner-Wannabe, am I really willing to devote my focus, energy, time, knowledge and skills in aiding development that, from my point of view, seem so elusive and harder to achieve after every initiative? I have no idea. Perhaps, I am more idealistic than necessary, which is why I am frustrated with the role. Perhaps, social change is still vague to me. Or perhaps, it is my own purpose that is in question.