The Blue Sweater

Perhaps writing about Giving Tuesday last week triggered a memory of reading a book some years ago titled The Blue Sweater.   The author described having had a blue sweater she dearly loved in her early teens, even writing her name on the tag to stake her claim to it.   But one day a boy at school made fun of it.  She went home complaining to her mother who took her to Goodwill, where she was happy to be relieved of it. 

              Fast forward ten years or so.  Having been deeply affected by the genocide in Rwanda, she went to Africa with youthful ambition to “save the continent.” What she discovered was “some of the worst that good intentions, traditional charity, and aid can produce:  failed programs that left people in the same or worse conditions.”

              Out jogging one day while there, she encountered a young boy wearing a blue sweater that she quickly recognized as her own.  He was only about ten and the sweater hung so low on him that it hid his shorts and only his fingertips poked out of the sleeves.  He didn’t speak French and she didn’t speak Kinyarwanda.  However, she managed to communicate to him she wanted to look at the tag.  Sure enough, there was her name!

               “The story of the blue sweater,” she wrote, “has always reminded me of how we are all connected.  Our actions—and inaction—touch people we may never know and never meet across the globe.”

 With a background as an international banker, she knew the power of capital and markets and politics and recognized how the poor are often excluded from all of those.  In 2001, at the age of 39, she established Acumen, a non-profit impact investment fund that seeks to change “the way the world tackles poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders, and ideas. “

Her “can do” attitude was refreshing to me in the face of the many obstacles to addressing poverty.  I am re-reading the book and exploring more about the Acumen fund.  If you are so inclined, the book is a worthwhile read. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Rwandan mandazi are little African donuts, a little less sweet than the American variety but have hints of cinnamon, cardamon and coconut.    They are found all over Africa by different names like Dabo or Dahir.  Crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, they are often made in the shape of a triangle.  For the recipe, go to www.internationalcuisine.com/rwandan-mandazi.  😊

3 thoughts on “The Blue Sweater”

  1. The relatively recent acknowledgment that traditional aid may not have been helpful reminds me of something that happened years ago. For some reason, Mother’s church group decided to support sending livestock to some third world country (like the heifer fund). Steve and I visualized the arrival of the ship and local people saying, “Hooray! It’s goats, not missionaries!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for another fine post. It troubles me that many of the people who have the most are the least likely to want to help anyone else. All people want is a hand up, not a hand out.

    Liked by 1 person

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