I’ve been here long enough to become very aware of my surroundings. The amount of French organizations that pass through Alakamisy is astounding. They reside for around a month, pack up and return to France, to return the next year. An organization comes every year with a large shipping container of donations. Another organization comes every July to build wells and schools (Alakamisy has one of the highest schools to fokontany (burrows) ratio in the Fianarantsoa area. Yet another organization donates hospital supplies each year (in which case it sits in an office in the village hall because the hospital is fully stocked already with hospital beds, wheelchairs, blankets and the such. Organizations donate computers, computers that due to lack of education and inexperience break and pile up in yet another room in village hall. Books get donated in languages the villagers have never seen before and build up dust in the corner of the Maison des Jeunes.
This raises a question in my mind, when is giving too much? Humanitarian aid is a commonality in Generation Yers. We want to see that our life has meaning; that we tried to make the world a better place. For many, that means giving. Giving supplies, money, donations. Heck, I donated my time. But my time, that’s just the point. Peace Corps is not only just building relationships with other countries; it’s sharing our knowledge and gaining some in return.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
I can easily translate this to fit.
“Give a village some computers with no training, and they last at most a month. Teach them how to maintain them, and endless amounts of students can learn and build business skills.”
When I first arrived in Alakamisy, my village had 12 computers, newly donated by one the French organizations. To date, we have 2. 10 computers in one year. That means one computer on average broke around every month. Can you imagine going out and purchasing a new laptop every month?
So rather than just making charitable donations to an organization, maybe invest some time in what is to become of your giving. Will the organization just send the money abroad? Will they purchase supplies and ship it? And if so, will they send someone to accompany the shipment and teach the importance of the supplies? Example, mosquito nets in Africa. Great project. Africa still suffers from an overwhelming rate of Malaria deaths. Mosquito nets are to prevent the mosquito carrying the disease from biting and infecting someone. Will someone be sent with those nets to teach the importance of the nets and what it does? Or will it just be distributed, no explanation given, to families and then turned into a fishing net the next day? (True story, that does happen, mosquito nets made into fishing nets.)
Just a thought…