Archive for July 2009

Does charity do more harm than good?

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This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time, but particularly after my trip to Haiti.  Out of all of the experiences I had there, the one that effected me the most was the impact “child sponsorship” seemed to have on the culture, or at least the behavior, of the villagers we were aiding.  The kids were adorable, pitiful, manipulative beggars.  I’m not saying that’s their entire identity, but it’s how they’ve learned to interact with “rich” Americans.  And with good reason.  As soon as we walked into their villages, their homes, we were handing out candy and balloons and pens and I’m sure my group wasn’t unique in this ritual. haiticandygiveaway Of course, the mission we were visiting was doing important things like establishing schools and clinics with indigenous teachers and doctors and giving food and clothes and establishing real and long-term relationships, with good results.  What was distressing to me was that the children were the commodity – they are the big
attraction to draw in the missionary “tourists” aka short-term missions.  They are what sells, what brings in the money, and they understand that.  And that is just a little bit disturbing to me.  What are we doing to entire generations of people?  What does living in this continuously dependent relationship do to their psyches?  Obviously there is need and we shouldn’t sit back and do nothing, but I wonder if there is a better way than continuous charitable donations.  My feeling is that an investment in an impoverished person’s or group of peoples’ skills, talents, ideas and passions might go farther in changing a person’s/community’s view of herself/himself/itself in relation to the wider world and make a larger, longer-lasting, and (I’m sorry, I have to use this word) sustainable impact.

Here’s a link to an article on this subject that I found interesting:

Thoughts, ideas, or criticisms anyone?


Written by Hannah

July 11, 2009 at 1:53 pm