Growing up as a kid in a third world country, and due to the fourteen years of civil crisis in my country, I saw many charities and nonprofit organizations give their time and donations to the work of our country. Some of these organizations and individuals donated money and probably did not do due diligence to figure out how the money was spent. Other organizations donated clothes, and food items, while a few others spent their time and donations on various awareness campaigns, volunteering and education.
Liberia is a country that continually seeks help from so many charitable organizations, and growing up with this knowledge I found it hard to understand why the number of organizations kept adding up. If their mission was to help change the lives of the people, why were there still problems after so many years of giving time and resources to this cause? I realized that the answer to that was fairly simple: most of these organizations gave people items/things they would always be in need of (food, clothing & shelter); instead of teaching them lifelong skills that would enable them fend for themselves, namely: agriculture, manufacturing and vocational education. Instead of teaching people how to fish, they were giving them fish to eat.
As I grew older, I remember asking myself if these donations and charitable works were helping the situations in my country or making matters worse. I pondered repeatedly on how citizens would sustain themselves after these donations and charitable works ended.
These questions always popped up in my mind: Can we make/manufacture our own clothes if we stop receiving clothes from donors/charity organizations? Are we in a position to grow our own food if we stop receiving free foods? Or will we be able to get or own money if we stop receiving money from donors?
Donating to a cause that you care about can be spiritually or emotionally rewarding, as well as beneficial to the receivers and charities themselves, and it is because of these reasons that people regularly perform acts of charity.
I suggest this, when deciding to give to charity, whether it is your time or money, you need to firstly clarify your values: What are your priorities? What are some of the works you are interested in? Are there other choices or options that better meet the goal? How will it benefit the receivers? Will it be impactful? Do you have to continuously give to that same cause, or will the cause go away after a number of donations? You then need to identify preferences.
With all of what I’ve written in mind, when deciding where to direct your time and donation, I believe that one should favor means or institutions that are dedicated to educating people and ensuring that jobs are created through these donations. I believe directing one’s time and donation toward education helps take care of problems for a longer time. Donating towards education will create jobs and eradicate more problems, because educating people helps them to realize their responsibilities, even while they appreciate whatever donations they receive.
For instance, most charitable organizations run campaigns to eliminate hunger by donating food to poor countries and people. This tactic has never solved the problem of getting rid of hunger. This only increased the amount of charities giving to the cause. If you decide to donate in order to get rid of hunger, you need to educate people on farming practices that will help them grow and provide food for themselves, and empower them by creating jobs. By doing this, you eliminate the chances of keep giving the same thing to the same people repeatedly. This will also help people stand on their own, ensuring that they will not have to wait on food donations to be able to provide for themselves.
I believe that time and monetary donations are valuable, and as such, they should be spent for life-changing situations. When deciding on how to direct your time and donation, make sure your time and donation will be used for a project that is life changing and finite, not something that people will always need you for.
Authored by Andy Boons
Featured Image by Canada Helps