When I give to individuals

Though I very seldom take this side in a conversation, it is possible to give too little personal gifts in the third world (usually I take the side that western giving swamps and undermine majority world efforts and that our gifts of time and money should be structured to incentivize work and improvement). Instead, our giving must be structured consciously to help a person. This week I have been part of three local donation processes which are examples of how this might look in the real world.  As you read, notice that the expected value of my total giving only adds up to perhaps $30.

Today, I am giving $1.25 to a local security guard to go towards the construction of his church. I was considering between 60 cents and $1.25 as this was the range that others had given. My gift did not go far towards the construction of the church, but I joined together with the community putting my money towards a deserving project. It can be reasonably objected that I just encouraged Kenyans asking Americans for money and undermining our relationship and if I didn’t know the person or if I gave more, this would be correct. However, in this case I am engaging as part of the community—my donation will not allow the community to be dependent on outsiders, but to see me and those like me as people joining their cause.

Next is a print cartridge for printing school worksheets for a local orphanage. The printer was donated to the orphanage but does not include a print cartridge. The orphanage currently spends approximately $35 on printing each month and one $60 cartridge should last them over six months. As this will save the orphanage money, I will not be donating the cartridge, but instead will merely guarantee the purchase of the cartridge so that if the printer does not work, I’ll reimburse the orphanage ensuring that they take ownership of this method of saving money but need not worry about being unable to provide teaching materials for the next two months because the printer is broken.

Finally, a friend of mine who is my house help (cooks, cleans and does laundry once a week) has a son who I also know who is in his fifth of eight semesters of university to become a teacher. The family does not have enough money to finish this semester and will be unable to take his tests without help. Another family who the father helps and I got together and set up a combination of donation (about $20, partly in the form of interest payments on money he saved with me), loans against his future service (about $250, mostly from the other family), and repayment of what he had saved with us (about $50). This was done after about $300 was donated by the village and $200 from the family this semester and an understanding about the future relation in the payment for the last semesters. This is allowing the son to get closer to a well paying and societally important job without wasting what had already been paid to the school. All that said, we are not sure how he will complete the last three semesters. Kenya does not traditionally use loans as credit is almost impossible to establish, but instead works by selling family possessions and the village coming together to invest in the education of the next generation.

I hope these examples are instructive on how we can think about loving our neighbor, though I’m sure that each could have been done both more helpfully and lovingly, I think the perspective is a good place to start.

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One Response to “When I give to individuals”

  1. Haiti and Brooklyn | ToddHelps Says:

    […] but I have established a philosophy and pattern that is my current choice for most requests (see here for a few examples).Last night, I struggled to psychologically transition between the two. […]

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