I’m very wary when it comes to humanitarian programs. I don’t judge others’ choices with which programs to go through, but personally I want to make sure that the service I will provide will help the person become self-sufficient, and bless the community as a whole.
In the documentary, Poverty Inc., it talks about the issue with Haiti. When the huge earthquake happened in 2010, America wanted to help. So we started sending rice to the country. This helped while the crisis was fresh, but the problem was-we never stopped. We kept sending rice until the rice farmers were out of business, and rice was no longer a delicacy but a way too common meal. It’s the same principle with giving people fish rather than teaching them to fish. Bill Clinton said of the Haiti mistake, “it’s failed everywhere it’s been tried…it also undermines a lot of the culture, the fabric of life, the sense of self-determination.”
Who profits when we give and give but don’t provide lasting help? Our pride does, because we think we are really helping, but the people and the culture might actually suffer.
That’s another thing: what might seem like a terrible circumstance to us, is often their culture and they might be perfectly happy. Things like clean water, education, and health care will always be important to help provide. But when our mentality is, “Oh these poor people, they are lacking so much”, then we have an even bigger issue.
The happiest people I’ve ever seen have had small tin houses, no car, and worn shoes. Some of the unhappiest people I’ve ever seen stared for hours at their phone, took free education for granted, and worried too much about their physical appearance. Please, never think that people must not be happy just because they come from a third world country or may be ‘poor’.
It’s true that every situation is different, but in general that is what I’ve seen and noticed. And let me say again that I do not judge others choices by what program they go through or the service they provide. It is always a good thing to want to help, and it’s amazing to be able to travel, meet people and provide service and smiles. But for me, I want to make sure I feel good in my heart with what I’m doing.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Is this program providing service or providing stuff?
- If I were in the recipient’s situation how would I feel?
- Does this service help the recipient emotionally or cause problems?
- Is this sustainable?
At the end of the day, good job on wanting to improve the world. Whatever you choose to do, with whatever program, I’m sure it will be great.