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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The TOMS dilemma: more harm than good?

Over the past few years, you've probably seen a lot of these. In 2006, TOMS was founded on the principle of Buy One, Give One (BOGO) – for every pair of shoes sold, another pair is donated to someone in need in the developing world. At first glance, it seems like a great idea.

Unfortunately, giving AID isn't always so straight forward.

They saw children who needed shoes and decided to do something about it. The problem is that a lack of shoes is a symptom of the true issue of poverty: children don’t have shoes because their families can’t afford to buy them. It isn't about a lack of shoes, rather a lack of jobs.

At least they’re giving children shoes though, right? Well, not quite.

When companies use the BOGO model improperly, they can have a harmful effect on the local businesses where the goods are being donated. For every pair of TOMS that a child receives, a local shoemaker is losing potential income. This means fewer jobs for families, less income, and more poverty.

On top of the loss of income, there is also the issue of the inefficiency of sending some goods. Let’s look at the example that a former Peace Corps volunteer used to illustrate this point.

Take a school of 1,000 children somewhere in the rural developing world. Parasites like the hookworm and other infections are common, especially as the students need to walk through areas that local communities have begun using as a latrine. An immediate thought would be to buy the children shoes – at approximately $27 / shoe that would cost $27,000 and would help the issue for 2-3 years before the shoes wore out.

On the other hand, for $2,000, a concrete latrine could be built for the community, and for $27,000, 12 more could be built to benefit other communities. This solution would last for decades and would help tens of thousands of people.

Good intentions can sometimes fuel the problem more than help it.

In contrast, there are companies like Sole Rebels, who are doing great things with shoes. Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, an Ethiopian woman, wanted to bring jobs to local communities in Ethiopia by making shoes. She hires all of her workers locally, which provides jobs to those in need.

If the true problem is a lack of work, then find a way to create more jobs. It is so important to truly understand the root of the issue that’s being dealt with to avoid causing more harm than good.

Giving AID can be done right, it can help.

Here are just a few of the guidelines that HOPE International Development Agency uses when sending goods overseas to ensure that we don’t create similar issues.

Work with local partners
Goods that we send overseas need to be useful to the people they’re benefiting. We work with partners locally and only accept goods that they feel are appropriate for the current situation.

Provide goods that aren't readily available
If what we send takes jobs away from the local people, we’re only aggravating the issue. We focus mainly on medical and pharmaceutical supplies that aren't readily available to rural communities.

Buy locally
When goods that are needed are available through local businesses, we support them by purchasing whatever we can in-country. This also ensures that jobs aren't being lost.
There are many considerations that we take when sending goods overseas to ensure the quality of the products and the safety of the people being helped. When it comes to development work, it is so important to connect with the people who know the issue – this ensures that the aid being provided truly does benefit the people being helped.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fulfilling a Promise in Jessore, Bangladesh

As a child, Aziz dreamed of attending school. He desperately wanted to become something other than incredibly poor.

As an adult, and now on his deathbed, Aziz’s childhood dream remained unfulfilled.

Knowing the end was near, Aziz had a request of his wife Rahima, “Make sure our daughter Mutka becomes a doctor; promise me Rahima”, he said.

In life, Aziz had done everything he could for his family. In death, his thoughts were for young Mutka and her dream of attending school.

We’re working to fulfill Aziz’s dying wish and Rahima’s promise. And you can help us send children like Mutka to school.

With your help, children like Mutka will receive an education in the foundational subjects of reading, writing, and math as well as basic health and dental care, including regularly scheduled check-ups.

Health education is also provided, with a focus on hygiene and disease prevention.

In addition, daily “health breaks” ensure children receive nutritious snacks that promote learning and ensure good health.

You can help send an underprivileged child to school, provide health care, dental care, health education, and nutritious food that promotes learning and good health.

Send a child to school today.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Impossible Decision: Drink Water or Eat?

South Sudan is now trying to rebuild itself after 17 years of civil war in which most of its infrastructure was destroyed, leaving families in desperate need of clean water. Without access to clean water, illness and disease run rampant, families suffer, and lives are lost.

A hand dug water hole in Ibba.
The sources of drinking water frequented by the people of Ibba, South Sudan are typically holes dug by hand and are full of deadly bacteria. Stagnant water like this has led the country to having a child mortality rate among the highest in the world.

Donors said this needs to change – they are providing families with clean water.

A single borehole, drilled up to 160m deep, will provide clean water for 180 families. Martin and his family are among those helped.

During the civil war, they were forced to flee to the mountains where there was no water, and no hope. When fetching water, Martin’s wife was forced to ask whether it was for drinking or for porridge. “We had to choose because there wasn’t enough [water],” he said. Now that the borehole is complete, he tells us, “the children are clean, and our clothes are clean. We can drink water and eat porridge. Water is the key to our happiness.”

"Water is the key", Martin
Without enough water nothing can exist and life comes to a halt. Health and sanitation deteriorate and gardens don’t grow. The little water that is available is unsafe – full of bacteria that begin by attacking the youngest children, who are most vulnerable.

Martin and his family now have a sustainable source of clean water. They don’t have to worry about where they’ll find water to drink, or how they’ll make food, or whether they’ll be able to keep their children clean and free of disease. They no longer have to choose between eating or drinking.

Generous donors made this story possible for Martin and for hundreds of other families just like his – we cannot thank you enough!

The new borehole provides abundant supply of clean water.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

‘Voluntourism’ as a Powerful Learning Tool

‘Voluntourism’ has gained popularity over recent years and has inspired many debates. Some question the effectiveness of sending volunteers overseas to do work people overseas are more than capable of doing.

Sending a team of young volunteers who’ve raised their own funds to go and help – and we do this every year – is a good idea; but only if we and they understand that their primary role is to learn.

For example, HOPE’s UNION program (Understanding Needs In Other Nations) provides opportunities for volunteers to go to countries like the Dominican Republic. Yes, they’re there to get their hands dirty, but more importantly, they’re there to receive the gift of awareness that only the families there can give. The “learning” is for the volunteers, not so much the families they are working alongside. The families have access to the knowledge and skills needed to build a water system; they simply lack the financial resources to make it happen.

We are the guests on their journey out of poverty – they are in the driver’s seat.

Without exception, volunteers who return from their trip speak of what they’ve learned more than what they’ve done. After the blisters fade away, it’s the learning that remains. This is why we encourage young volunteers to go overseas.

To truly understand the situation in the developing world, one must be a firsthand witness to the suffering and poverty that threatens the lives of so many. When you stand in front of the mother who tells you that her family won’t eat that night because there is simply no food, you cannot go on living your life the way you did prior to such an experience. It becomes impossible to sit back and do nothing about what you've seen and experienced.

Upon returning, the team members now understand more about the root causes of the issues and how to begin solving them. They become advocates for the lives of the people they’ve encountered by raising awareness about the situation they’ve now become a part of, and they help create change in a powerful way.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can get involved, please contact Rainbow Choi or visit our UNION page for more information.