Contributor Recommends: ‘Poverty Safari’ by Darren McGarvey

For May’s Contributor Recommends, we spoke to Kelly Jo Lihaven, Grants Manager EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Kelly Jo has worked in the area of CSR/ESG for over 11 years for two major banking foundations, engaging with partners across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. She was born and grew up in Canada where she started her career in the field of media and communications.

“My recommendation is Scottish rapper and writer Darren McGarvey’s book Poverty Safari. McGarvey’s introduction states that “people like me don’t write books”, because by his own admission, he wasn’t a big reader growing up, although he was a “regular consumer of words”. This Orwell prize-winning political book is a deeply honest and well-written biographical outlook based on his own experience of growing up in Pollok, a deprived area of Glasgow.

As someone who endured physical abuse by his mother and struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, he paints a picture of his own challenging experience while giving context to the wider, interconnected issues faced by others in his community and others in the UK.

This book illuminates the issues of class and the stark divide – the “widening deficit” as McGarvey describes it. It offers a powerful and though-provoking viewpoint of what must be done to rebuild trust in neglected communities in the areas that those of us working in the ‘giving sector’ are looking to support.

It made me think about the significance not only of what we give but how it’s given and how by actively listening to our partners, leaders with lived experience and ultimately the beneficiaries we support, we can help to ensure that what we’re doing will truly help and not hinder progress. It also made me reflect on the importance of acting with empathy. It’s something I feel I am somewhat good at, but if anything this book made me realise that there’s more that I can do to make sure I’m doing good by people like Darren McGarvey.

Although it raises some tough questions, this book shines a light on some important themes and I hope you’ll get as much out of it as I have.”

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