It’s More Than Just “Do Something”
For example, a well-intentioned church in the United States decided to “adopt” a community in Uganda and provide for the children. After doing the proper due diligence on what the needs were, they promptly sent over a large shipment of donated t-shirts and shoes. Upon arrival, the children frantically grabbed their new (used) t-shirts and ran home … without the shoes. There are three major problems with this situation. First, by providing free clothes to the children, they hindered, and ultimately bankrupted, local businesses that were trying to sell clothes and run productive, for-profit, job-creating businesses. You see, our frozen perceptions tell us, “They NEED clothes! Therefore we should send them our used clothes!” However, the reality of the situation, and the question we should be asking, is this … do they really NEED new t-shirts?
Or do we just think they should wear the same clothes we wear? Second, the shoes. The boxes full of new shoes were never opened and the shoes never worn. Again, our frozen perception is that they need shoes. We wear shoes, so they should also, right? The answer is a resounding “no!” Not only do the children in this region not wear shoes, they never have. And, if they did, in fact, want shoes, we should help them support their local economy and assist them in a way that they can purchase the shoes locally. Third is our thinking – and again, frozen perception - about the word “need.” For the majority of Americans, we have never stepped foot outside our own borders. Because of this, we think we understand the “needs” of others around the world. However, the needs of many developing countries are far different than we think. A better question to ask – and a better way to think about everything we do in developing nations – is “What assets do they have?”