Toxic_charity_8 karma2016-05-31 19:47:35 UTC
Hi Paul, thank you for doing this. GiveDirectly is one of the charities I always use as an example to people when they ask about the dangers of charitable giving, so could I like share my experience and ask a question?
In 2015 I was doing charity work in rural Kenya, specifically Siaya county, Sigombre ward, in the village of Got Osimbo. It was during this time I learned how messy and complicated charity is. I had read a book called Toxic Charity, by Lupton, whose main premise is that most charitable actions end up harming the receivers in the long run. He goes through countless examples of harm, from loss of dignity, to reduced work ethic, to an attitude of dependency and entitlement toward the goods of others. I would also like to point to a documentary called Poverty Inc. that delivers a very similar message to that of Toxic Charity, but is set in Haiti.
In Kenya I met people with workable, fertile land who refused to farm because it was easier to parade their kids in front of charities and ask for food/clothing. Local farmers/cloth merchants hated whenever a charity came through because they could not compete with the flood of free food/clothing that came along into the market. There were some people who would befriend charities and act as if they were solely responsible for the presence of the charity. As soon as the charity left, those who wanted the charity back would have to give something to these people. I could give countless other examples, but I'll move onto how I believe GiveDirectly engages in this type of toxic charity.
I worked in Sigombe for a few months, and got to know some of the locals quite well. I was helping them with farming activities, which involved helping them come up with a business plan. I was extremely shocked to realize how few records some (not all) of the people I was working with kept. I would ask how much money/time they spent on xyz capital/activity, and there wouldn't be an answer.
I remember bringing up toxic charity with one of farmers I was working with, when he mentioned your charity. He explained to me how men who got the money would spend it on alcohol, and that one person died of drunk driving. Women, sick of the country life, would take the money and their children, and leave their husband to try to start a new life in the city. More often than not, they wouldn't be able to make it for long in the city and they would either turn to prostitution or come back to the village and get abused by their husband.
While I did not directly witness the second harm, I definitely saw the first. The spending of charity money on harmful things by financially illiterate people was rampant.
What I am curious about is how aware you are of these things. If there are any statistics you could provide on the long-term quality of life for individuals who received resources from your charity, I would be greatly appreciative. If it does seem like people are being helped in the long run, then I apologize and will immediately start rooting for you guys.
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