As a family who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus, it’s important to us to teach our daughter to help people.
A verse fueling this belief is:
“The King will say…
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then those listening will say, ‘What are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
And although I realize that there are people in my own community who need help, I also know that there are entire populations of people who are dire need, as well.
The data from the UNHR 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons states that:
“In 2009, 43 million people worldwide were considered forcibly displaced. The highest number since the mid-1990s.”
“41% of refugees and asylum-seekers are children 18 years old or younger.”
The bottom line: Not only are there are a lot of people living in abject poverty in our world, many of these people are children who are completely unconnected from anything they’ve ever known.
Although my husband and I have helped to plan and implement national and international mission trips in the past, being pregnant and having a two year old is not conducive (for our family anyway) to traveling far away to help people right now. Someday, yes hopefully. Today, not so much.
For whatever reason, my husband and I both have felt drawn to Africa so when our daughter was born we decided to “sponsor” an African girl who is a little less than 3 months older than Roo. We chose Swaziland because it has the highest HIV per capita rate in the world. We also chose World Vision as the organization to whom we entrust the care of our sponsored girl, “E”.
Roo and E (through help from us mothers) draw pictures for each other, send photos of their lives, and share updates in letters throughout the year.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate because E’s mother has used our help to not only raise her daughter in a healthier environment but she is now attending school herself and she is building a chicken business. She used our latest help to build a strong coop for their chickens!
It’s so awe-inspiring to see how connected Roo and E are…both these girls – although they live a world apart – are learning to walk, run, talk, and care for chickens almost simultaneously!
So although we have E to help, my husband and I have begun to feel very strongly about finding other ways to help people that isn’t enabling but rather is a mechanism for a greater level of independence.
I recently read the book “Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and there is a better way for Africa” by Dambisa Moyo.
I’ll be honest: the first half of “Dead Aid” is one of the hardest reads since I read Dr. Francis Collins’ “The Language of God.”
The second half of the book was worth the initial difficulty, though. Ms. Moyo, a brilliant economist, puts forth some genuinely useful ideas on how to help Africa without enabling OR being detrimental (which she states has not happened because aid is exacerbating the negative issues and is detrimental).
She mentions many legitimate ideas but I’ll only touch on three.
The first is that China investing in the infrastructure and being loan-oriented, rather than aid-oriented, is a win-win situation for Africa and China. It’s a fair, but business-minded, relationship. Although Ms. Moyo wrote this book a couple years ago, I just read this article recently: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/07/china-africa-20-billion-in-loans.html. Twenty billion is a ginormous loan! I hope it truly helps.
The second is that we should be investing in African governments by buying bonds. Yes some of these governments are disgustingly corrupt but those are unlikely to receive a bond rating anyway. There are a few governments that are just starting to offer bonds, such as South Africa. I recently called an investment company to research our options and I learned we’d have to invest at least $100,000 in order to obtain a bond. I haven’t given up researching this idea though!
The third option is to invest in small business loans to African business owners. This micro finance idea has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price as well as generated successful loan options for small businesses (roughly 97% owned by women!). And there is now a company that acts as a vehicle for these types of loans that Ms. Moyo recommends: Kiva.org.
Charity Navigator and the BBB both have good things to say about Kiva so please check it out! You can invest in a business of your choice, receive updates on your loan, get your loan paid back over the length of the loan period and reinvest the money with another small business owner.
Since the loans have technically already been made before the business shows up on Kiva, you’re actually paying the bank lender to help mitigate their upfront costs. You don’t gain interest on the loan (the bank lenders get that!) but you could help a small business owner in a third world country with just $25.
There is no fee for making a loan on Kiva.org but you are able to make a tax-deductible donation to Kiva, if you’re so inclined, at the time of your purchase. You must pay either with a credit card or PayPal account.
I personally like how this micro finance option connects our family with people who are trying to run businesses in other areas of the world.
As our daughter continues to grow, I hope to continue to find creative ways to teach her how to connect with people not only face-to-face but also around the world. I’d like to teach her about micro finance options, as well as how to serve with her time and efforts!