Imagine a place where there have been decades and billions of dollars spent on trying to bring people out of poverty. Where the money donated in good-will by millions of people from developed nations is spent, and where thousands of people have traveled from across the world to give their assistance, without asking for any compensation in return.
Now imagine the first thing that comes to peoples’ minds when they think of ways of helping someone in a poor country….It’s probably to give that poor person something, or do something for them for free.
Unfortunately, a lot of organizations that are devoted to helping people in developing countries don’t take their approach much beyond this basic concept of what first comes to most peoples’ minds… Some type of handout.
This has contributed to generations of people in developing countries who have been entrenched in a culture of receiving handouts, and fully accustomed to seeing foreign people that are there to give them something, without asking for anything in return.
This culture of receiving freebies leads to me being the frequent target of very typical types of requests , simply by merit of being a foreigner:
“Mr. Jordan, this community needs (insert anything you can imagine someone might want or need here), why don’t you help them?”
Or the more direct single English phrase well-known to most Malawian children in response to seeing a foreigner: “Give me money!”
Or often: “Maybe you know some well wishers back in Canada who can help with _____?”
An entire nation and system that is focused on solutions to their problems that rely on external monetary assistance. A mindset that stifles ingenuity and personal resolve in creating and executing on solutions through their own means.
So what is the weapon in the battle against handouts? Should we withdraw all external aid? Should people stop volunteering overseas? Certainly not, but the thinking behind this aid and volunteering needs to be pushed beyond what first comes to mind, and there has to be consideration about the long-term effects of the type of aid that is being provided.
Engineers Without Borders doesn’t provide any direct monetary assistance, but thinks through on how to act on the permanent systems within developing countries to create the biggest positive change. We work on pushing peoples’ thinking within these systems, and on placing ourselves in such a way to provide the perspectives that aren’t being seen or well represented.
If you want to support this type of thinking and approach to development, please support Engineers Without Borders, and ensure that your well intentioned donation to a development organisation won’t perpetuate the culture of dependence on handouts in developing countries. Go to the following link and click on “Donate Now”” https://perspectives.ewb.ca/jordandaniow
Disclaimer: Please note that this is a highly simplified representation of only a small portion of the highly complex issue of human development, and that a lot of amazing dedicated people and organisations are working and thinking very hard to solve problems in the best way possible all around the world.
For another layer in the complex issue of human development, and for more perspective on how there must be a continuous push to deepen the thinking around the problems, please read the next post: https://whatyoumightbemissing.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/projectized-sustainability/