There’s Too Many of Us

May 13, 2013

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For the last 10 years there’s been a steady increase of stories, books, speakers, and organizations describing how a half-century of well-intended foreign aid has caused a significantly adverse impact on countries in developing world. Ironically, advances in media and travel technology have converged with an explosion of interest in addressing the poverty and injustice that characterize many of these countries. A cultural phenomenon of international activism has emerged across the West in churches, schools, corporations, and pop culture. For many years, large organizations like World Vision, International Red Cross, UNICEF, Samaritan’s Purse, and USAID were the primary sources of international aid. As well, Western governments conducted large-scale lending activity with governments in these ‘emerging’ countries. 

But in the last 10-15 years, and especially recently, thousands of organizations, supported by millions of people, have sprung up, focusing on building schools, funding entrepreneurs, digging wells, starting churches, facilitating adoptions and more among the world’s poor. Hard data on these organizations is difficult to find. As this study shows, there are multiple categories of international aid for organizations to fall into. But a brief online search can reveal the sheer volume of “help” flowing out of the U.S. into Central and South America Africa, and Asia.

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The international non-profit pool resembles something like the Apple App store. Lots of options for every concept imaginable are available to consumers, or in this case of non-profits, the concerned. Africa Water and Life is just one of the many groups out there, committed to helping the poor, hurting, broken, and oppressed. One question that must be on each of our minds is whether this diversified approach justifies the help that we Westerners continue to offer. Are ‘boutique’ organizations en masse any different than large institutions with the similar intentions? Is it possible that even with the innovative and sustainable strategies for helping, the number of groups ends up nullifying their intended benefits?

Look for an answer a little later this week.

Part II

Part III