It has been rewarding to find ways of helping those in need with the help of enthusiastic volunteers. In the process, we have learned a number of vitally important lessons that have ensured that our aid indeed brings healthy results.
These lessons help neutralize objections often made about charitable work, such as:
* Aid won't go to intended recipients.
* It will make people more dependent.
* We don't really know who the recipients are.
* We are feeding a handout mentality.
To avoid these problems we have learned the following:
*There must be a genuine need before aid is given. This takes careful and thoughtful appraisal. Often those needing help most are not the ones asking. And those asking may not be the priority.
*Provide only the kind of assistance that will result in self-sufficiency and not in dependency. Mistakes can be made by giving cash grants to people that result in them asking for more. This kind of help can actually defeat an aid program. The most successful contributions are those for the greater good of a group, income-producing methods, microloans, helping children or in-kind benefits. There should never be a never-ending promise to keep on helping. We believe in a hand up, not a handout.
*Aid must be distributed in a fair and equitable manner. A group receiving aid can be destabilized by favoritism. People quickly find out who's getting what and from whom. It's vital that there be local coordination by the pastor or a responsible individual to oversee agreed-upon equity.
*Recipients must be accountable for the aid received. Beneficiaries of aid must make plain how the aid has been used and how it has improved their condition. Often small loans are best because the repayment process teaches accountability. A loan should be made for income-producing purposes.
*Those receiving aid must be willing to be educated in how to better themselves--they must do their part. In Zambia, for example, we are initiating an education program for proper care of the animals that are being donated. People must be willing to change methods that caused failure and be willing to adopt methods that will ensure success.
*Aid must be culturally appropriate. We must not bring aid that draws undue attention to the donors or beneficiaries. Again using Zambia as an example, we must help the people plow better with animals and not introduce tractors that are nowhere to be seen in the area.
*Give what is really needed and make sure it's in good condition. It is irritating and wasteful to give people things they cannot use or something that is not in working condition which they have to dispose of. It is far better to treat people with dignity and respect, as we would like to be treated.