Thank you so much for your contributions and your heart to give. It makes you and me feel good to see that your contribution made a difference. You like to give to feed the hungry, contribute to relief the suffering of an individual or pay for someone’s education or vocational training. This is good, commendable and certainly necessary, at least in some cases. Learn more about the benefits of giving in this previous blog post. We as charities and non-profit organisations can send you pictures with the beneficiaries and their food parcel, certificate or improvement. It makes me feel good because I tell myself that I helped someone and I used your funds in a responsible and transparent way. You as donor expect me to use your funds for the benefit of the needy and the intended purpose. You don’t want your money to be wasted or disappear in the administration process or even a selfish individual.
But to be honest, this is not my goal. I don’t want to send you pictures of a smiling person in ripped and dirty clothes to make you feel better as you can see that your donation has been used "effectively" and purposefully just to satisfy your expectation. Please don’t get me wrong and listen carefully. I have distributed food parcels, clothes and shoes to the needy. I have preached the gospel to drug addicts. I was leading discipleship/youth groups and Christian kids programs. I have done all of that and I hope and pray that it did some good at least for the one or the other.
I want to share some experiences with you to show, that our help is often not solving the problems but making them worse or even creating more.
Whenever we get food and clothes donations, we organize a trip to the needy communities to distribute. The contributions bring relief to a momentary need. But instead of empowering people we are creating beggars. The people are waiting at home to receive the things that they “usually” get. When they see you giving food parcels to some people at the corner, they come to you demanding “their” parcel. "You have helped those people so you have to help me as well." We are not empowering them to become independent and able to solve their own problems. They often rely on the help that we bring.
I have worked for about 2 years in a Christian aftercare centre in the township. We were teaching the children bible stories, encouraged them to make good decisions and helped them with home- and school work. Here are some of the results:
- The parents relied on the aftercare centre and didn’t see a need to get involved in their child’s educational development.
- The children heard bible stories and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, many children who used to attend the aftercare, are using drugs, dropped out of school, are enjoying party life, get drunk on a regular basis, some girls are running after men and others became fathers and mothers before even finishing grade 12.
During this COVID crisis I have seen organisations raise money very easily to feed the poor. Millions were raised and distributed and what is the result when the crisis is over? Did the number of poor and needy people decrease? Do we have less hungry children? Do we have less unemployed people? Do we have more healthy individuals? Do we have more people in the church?
Unfortunately the answer to all these questions is no. The overall impact: a smile on the face of the receiver and a nice picture to send to the donors. What changed for the beneficiaries? One week later they are hungry again and stand for hours in one of the endless queues in the blazing sun fighting for the best position to get a food parcel. They even drag their little babies and children with them in order to move the distributors to pity and gain an advantage. Was this your intention? Most certainly not. Should we stop giving? Certainly not! The need is bigger than ever before. Our task at the frontline is very difficult. We want to help and not cause more problems.
We have to stop focusing on numbers of individuals we could help. Yes, it looks very good on a report or thank you letter, but most of the time it doesn’t make tangible difference in the long run. I have found only one way to bring real change and make a difference in someone’s life. This sustainable poverty relief is actually a very old concept as you can read in this blog post.
It can only be achieved by a long-term, brotherly relationship which invests in a person by building and modelling a godly character based on biblical values and truths.
Check out some extractions of David Platt’s book “Counterculture” to this topic of the Gospel and poverty. If you know another or even better way of bringing sustainable change, please leave a comment below so that we can be more effective in our work. Yes, the suggested way requires funds but most of all time. We have to spend time with the people we want to impact. Therefore we have to live among the people. Read more about why we want to move to the township. The goal of HOPE Recovered is to establish a center in the township, live among the people and change the life of one person at a time. We want to see people turn their lives around on this earth and find an eternal hope.
Are you coming with us to live in the township? Join us or contribute to our center and make an impact that lasts.
Raphael Richli, founder of HOPE Recovered