Theology Thursday: Can Helping Hurt?
This is the latest "Theology Thursday" blog which, admittedly, has very little theology and a lot more of me describing what is happening right now. I write this fully understanding that a book called "When Helping Hurts" was written some years ago and has been used by many as the gold standard for changing the way the church helps to alleviate poverty. I read the book a while back and both enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. This blog, while kind of stealing the title a little bit, has nothing to do with that book.
I am writing this from the perspective of seeing an influx of attention back on Haiti because of another earthquake. I am reminded of the 2010 earthquake where billions (yes, "billions" with a "b") of dollars were raised for the relief effort. A short 12 years later, another earthquake hits and the country is in even worse shape than it was prior to 2010.
Those billions were not used effectively and they certainly were not used to help rebuild Haiti or help those in poverty after the earthquake. They were used for big organizations like USAID and Red Cross to make a lot of plans, spend a lot of money on preparations, and then be able to do very little in a country that they neither understood nor respected. The funds were used to make wealthy Haitians wealthier, to make donors feel good about themselves, and to increase the reach of larger disaster relief organizations way more than they were used for actual Haitians.
In the Bible, Jesus talks about money a lot and the Bible in general is pretty focused on how people should use their money. Things like tithing to the church, helping those in need, giving away everything to the poor, and being smart with the blessings that you have are very important. The truth is, generosity even without wisdom, is better than being unwilling to give up what you have. I actually have no issues at all with people who gave to the initial relief effort even when the money was given to those orgs who did not do what they promised. Generosity for generosity's sake is a noble thing.
I am writing this blog to simply say, let's learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of 2010. Here are some good lessons:
- Give to organizations that have "boots on the ground" or have the capability to launch large scale disaster relief efforts. 2 that we are mentioning are Friends For Health In Haiti and Samaritan's Purse.
- Unless you have medical field training or are a surgeon who can help injured people, do not go to Haiti. There are 12 million people in Haiti and many of them are both able and willing to work to help their brothers and sisters who are hurting. If you go down with no skill and no expertise you will simply use precious resources (water, bed, tent, etc.) and be less effective than the local population that is there. I looked at flights into Port right after the earthquake, and they are completely booked.
- Pray, pray, and then do a little more praying. Prayer is actually action. You will hear people say something along the lines of, "We need to pray first but we also need to act." There is no wisdom in that statement because one of the best "actions" we can do for anyone is to pray...So pray.
- I feel like this needs to be mentioned again...GIVE! But give to those organizations who can help with recovery efforts now and rebuilding efforts later.
The world has a chance to help Haiti, we have a chance to help Haiti. There are thousands dead and injured, tens of thousands who are now homeless, and millions who are going to go through major change because of this earthquake. If we can give to our Haitian brothers and sisters in need, we should...without hesitation.
We should also do it in wisdom and by learning from our past. Generosity for generosity's sake is noble, but giving wisely and through the advice of those who know better than us can really change the world.