Reader Question: How Do You Adjust From Privilege to Poverty?

From Olga: How to you insure that you are in fact working and living in solidarity with the poor you serve when you often come from a more privileged background as an international aid worker? What steps do you take to minimize the power differential that must exist?


Are these $6 shades too showy? Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

I work for CRS in Egypt, a country where the majority of people live in deep poverty. I’m based in Cairo but go to rural villages for work. Especially in the villages, I try hard to wear simple clothes.

I’ve been faced with a conundrum in that regard. Last year, my cheap $10 sunglasses broke while I was in the U.S. for a visit. I was short on time, so when I ran into a convenience store, I bought the first sunglasses that fit ($6).

As it happens, these sunglasses have little flecks of glass on the side meant to look like jewels. When I was back at work in Egypt, I realized that perhaps these bargain-basement plastic glasses would look swanky or gem-encrusted to some of the people we serve.

The problem is, these sunglasses haven’t broken the way a bunch of my other $10 pairs have. And Egypt is bright and sunny, so they’re still in my purse.

Do any CRS web readers have suggestions about my dilemma? Should I chuck the fake-jewels sunglasses for good?

– Laura Sheahen, CRS regional information officer, Europe and Middle East

In March, we invited you to ask questions of our staff. You asked really good questions. We’ll continue to post answers as they come in from staff around the world. And our invitation to you remains: if you have a question for our staff, please include it in a comment on any blog post and we’ll try to get answers as soon as possible.

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One Response to “Reader Question: How Do You Adjust From Privilege to Poverty?”

  1. ragamuffin Says:

    this is just my opinion, mind you…but isnt it worse to thow away a perfectly good pair of sunglasses? If the jewels bother you – why dont you cover them up with a little black paint or black nail polish. It coveres the jewels and you can keep the sunglasses you love to wear.

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