Friday, March 30, 2012

This may ruffle some feathers!

I just finished reading "Toxic Charity" by Robert Lupton this week. Has me thinking even more than I normally do about the impact NGO's, churches, foreigners, foreign governments, mission trippers, etc on the majority world. Here some quotes to chew on.

In the United States, there's a growing scandal that we both refuse to see and actively perpetuate. What Americans avoid facing is that while we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help. (pg 1) (I would lump Canada and Canadians into this statement as well)

...But what is so surprising is that its outcomes are almost entirely unexamined. The food we ship to Haiti, the well we dig in Sudan, the clothes we distribute in inner-city Detroit-all seem like such worthy efforts. Yet those closest to the ground-on the receiving end of this outpouring of generosity-quietly admit that it may be hurting more than helping. How? Dependency. Destroying personal initiative. When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them. (pg 3)
Thoughts, comments?


Anonymous said...

Hey Janelle. Thanks for the post. Just requested a copy of this book from the local library. Am looking forward to looking over the details. I am interested in hearing more first hand experience with charitable giving and what happens with the transformative (or lack thereof) inpact it has on those who are in need. I have often stuggled with "enabling" bad habits and perceived needs to empowering others who have real needs. A large part of the gospel is connected with justice for the oppressed yet discering what is a "hand out" vs a "hand up" can be confusing. Whatever action I do to help those who are in need (food wise, clothing ect) my desire is to add value to that person and not to devalue them in any way (sometimes I am unaware of the impact my "emotional response" of giving my money or resources has to the "reality" that the person is actually going through. I appreciate the food for thought (pardon the pun) and being a catalyst for greater thought and discussion the the topic.
Colin Bruins Saskatoon SK.

Janelle said...

Thanks Colin!
I think one of the first steps is to try to put ourselves in their shoes (although we can never fully understand their situation) and think about how we would react to "charity". How do we want to be treated to maintain our dignity, pride and respect.
I often have people come wanting to give out candies and toys to the neighbourhood kids. It's true that the kids don't have fancy toys, but if you were their parent, would you want some rich, foreigner (who is white - race does play a factor) hand gifts out to your kids without asking you? Probably not.
I use the same logic with people taking pictures on trips (a little bit of an aside) - put yourself in their shoes - would you want someone sharing photos of your kids with strangers or on the internet?
Which leads back to, it's all about relationship!

Leanne said...

Agreed, Janelle!

I think your feather-ruffling quotes are actually very important for us to hear. About two months ago I was interviewed by a woman writing her Master's Thesis on the world of "development" and how it impacts the people on the receiving end. In the course of our conversation, many similar comments came up. Sadly, I have seen altoghether too many individuals and groups (well intentioned though they were) whose actions ended up hurting or insulting rather than helping or empowering.

By no means do I think that this means we shouldn't get involved...but I do think we need to be very conscious of how our actions affect others -- in both the short and long term.

Ken Summerlin said...

Just discovered your blog via a Google alert that I have on Limbe. (I participated in a short-term medical mission trip to Limbe a couple of years ago and sponsor a 12 year old boy in Limbe via Compassion International.) Having participated in several other short-term mission trips over the years, I, too have begun to struggle with how I might be most helpful in serving the poor. "When Helping Hurts" by Fikkert & Corbett (I think?) is another good book that explores the questions you've raised here. I feel a strong calling to return to Haiti but will not until I have a better understanding about how I can be helpful without also being hurtful.

Thank you for your work there. I visited your clinic when I was there and met Dr. Mano. You and the clinic are a blessing to the people of that region.

Ken Summerlin
Fairhope, AL USA

Janelle said...

Hi Ken! Thanks for the comment.

I have also read "When Helping Hurts" and believe it raises many thought provoking questions of how missions is done. Keep struggling with the questions!

I'm curious - did you stay in Limbe or Haut Limbe at UCNH when you were here?