Sustainable Charity

In Kenya, many organizations that operate here are providing charitable services but operate under the moniker of a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). NGO’s are big business here. In fact, it is a good place for an up-and-coming member of the Kenyan Middle Class to make some good money. Many NGOs operating in Kenya are funded by external, international sources, which are oftentimes supported by other nations’ governments. Workers like me are sent abroad to complete some tasks, while NGOs also hire Kenyans to help facilitate operations as well. A truly multinational effort to complete charitable works.

Yet should it be? Charity is inherently a manifestation of what an influential portion of a specific culture deems a humanitarian necessity to be fulfilled with or without government support. Here however, charity is simply another potential job. And more problematic, the social issues that receive charitable attention are graded on a Western standard (like most development efforts… another post, another time). At this point in time, more charity-oriented NGOs should be shifting away from international donor support.

My issue is that there is now enough money circulating in the local Kenyan economy that it should be placed upon Kenyan shoulders completely to determine which charities are truly sustainable. If ever charity-work oriented NGO’s are to be considered sustainable development, they must prove themselves to their host cultures that the work they do is only a help and not a hindrance to society. Not only will it allow a more culturally attuned approach to charity work, it will also begin to ease this nation into a less aid-focused, and more local-based economy.

Money needs to start circulating around Kenya, and it needs to go from the Kenyans who have to the Kenyans who need. I am publicly calling this culture out to fulfill its self-publicized stereotype that communities pull together and help those in need. Money needs to stop coming from international donors whose distance from the ground prevents them from realizing that by helping charities here we are simply making an entire nation a charity case to be sustained by the developed international community. That’s a bad thing.

2 Comments

Filed under A Category Other Than Uncategorized, Ars Politico Africanae

2 responses to “Sustainable Charity

  1. jesseosmun

    Indeed it is problematic sometimes.. I don’t suppose it’s clear-cut either. On one hand, an NGO is meeting needs that the host country has, even if it undermines the desire of a government to fully act, providing much needed people and skills when properly implemented. On the other hand, your point about who gets helped is valid.

    Often times, ownership in the process between helper and helped can be unbalanced. In the middle, Peace Corps has to navigate in a way that allows volunteers some autonomy, but still respects the cultural, social, and political complexities that come with development. I would say overall Peace Corps has done a very good job in this arena.

    It’s very easy from a Western perspective to assume we know what’s best for development without fully assessing all factors. Ideally, “charity” is a collaborative effort, whether in Kenya or not.

  2. Jan

    I wonder if you saw this article about African orphanages in the Sunday NYT:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/world/africa/06orphans.html