Friday, June 6, 2008

OPPORTUNITIES FOR GIVING

Principles that guide “good giving” aren’t as straightforward as you might think, so allow me to share some basic lessons I have learned in the last six months!

THREE BASIC RULES IN GIVING:

1. EFFECTIVE GIVING CREATES CAPACITY, NOT DEPENDENCY!

GOOD GIVING: Invest in projects, people, and organizations that promote self-sustaining activities. Empower people. Equip people. Avoid making contributions that are not usable or replaceable without your assistance.

WHERE WE MESSED UP: American clothing donations flooded Zambian markets in the 1990’s and despite good intentions, this served to ruin the Zambian textile industry. Garments produced locally could not “compete” with free used clothing that poured in from abroad. When we give we must be careful that our donations are not doing more harm than good! Buy local and encourage others to support local businesses!

2. LET THOSE RECEIVING AID TELL YOU WHAT THEY NEED!

GOOD GIVING: This notion may sound very obvious, but I’ve seen countless examples of people giving, albeit generously, items that were never needed in the first place.

WHERE WE MESSED UP: I spoke with a Malawian physician recently who laughed as she recalled an American church that came to do a short-term mission project in her hospital. They brought dozens of boxes of old medical equipment that are now collecting dust in a corner of the hospital. Why, you ask? Because the equipment is simply not usable in their context! It was not what they really needed.

The hospital focused on delivering healthy babies to healthy mothers. The life expectancy of the average Malawian is 35. Disease and malnutrition are pressing issues and the American church failed to address the real needs of Malawians in that community. Let those receiving aid tell you what they need!

For more info on Malawi, check out info on the World Health Organization website: http://www.who.int/countries/mwi/en/

3. THINK PRACTICAL, NOT EXTRAVAGANT!

GOOD GIVING: Have you seen the fantastic statistics on micro-lending? This is effective giving. Women in rural areas tend to be the recipient of micro-loans and these loans (often providing money to create self-sustaining, productive farms and small businesses) are improving community life all over the developing world!

WHERE WE MESSED UP: A wealthy church in Canada wanted to give a million dollars to support hospitals in Zimbabwe. They wanted strict control over where the money was spent, but in the meanwhile, they did not consider the fact that a huge lump-sum like this can do more harm than good. Corruption is rampant in nearly every sector of society (not just in Zimbabwe—this seems to be an issue all over Africa). Money was siphoned into the deep pockets of some wealthy managers and ended up failing to support local hospitals. “Control” by the giver isn’t the answer. The answer is partnership. Develop relationships with an organization. Find out the needs of the organization and together discover practical ways that you can meet these needs. Think financially small. Think relationally big!

2 comments:

Brett & Shelly said...

Hey Carmen,

Very well said!!! I completely agree with you and I understand how good intentions from people back home can sometimes do more harm than good. You are such a good writer, maybe you can write for some of our blogs :)

Can't wait to see you

Love
Brett

Brett & Shelly said...

Hey Carmen,

Very well said!!! I completely agree with you and I understand how good intentions from people back home can sometimes do more harm than good. You are such a good writer, maybe you can write for some of our blogs :)

Can't wait to see you

Love
Brett