Friday, 1 June 2012

When charity turns toxic

I just read an article on Relevant Magazine about effective and ineffective charity work, and the dangers of putting a 'do-gooder' attitude above awareness of the real needs when it comes to poverty. Great discussion on that old phrase 'give a man a fish..'
The sentiment of the article is one of the main reasons I moved from being a lab worker to teaching discipleship and life skills. Working in the lab, I was doing a good job but it was a job any Ugandan could  do, and did not have any long term effect. The girls I teach now are learning things that will have a positive affect on the rest of their lives and that of their families. It has the added benefit of being a million times more rewarding, but at least I know now that what I do is sustainable and in the best interests of the girls I serve.
Please read the article for a fantastic discussion of really good charity work, and if you're thinking of serving as a volunteer or missionary, either at home or abroad, have a really good look at your motivations.
It can be very easy to think 'I'm doing good, so what's the problem', but as the article says, an awful lot of money is wasted on expensive short term mission trips to 'paint a school' (that may have been painted 3 times in the last 4 years) that could be used, for example, to pay school fees or hire local workers. You may be doing good, but are you doing the best good you can do? Are you doing it to stamp your 'do-gooder' card, or are you doing it because you know the work you do will have the most effective positive outcome for the people you serve, and will have a sustainable and long-term effect after you've left?

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