New Internationalist

Picture Yourself

Issue 148

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Picture yourself
Poor communities in the Third World have lives that are no less full, no less
complex, than your own. And while aid might be welcome, some forms will
seem more reasonable than others. Picture yourself or your neighbours
on the other end of some of the common kinds of aid project.

External inspiration
A foreigner suggests that you and your neighbours get together to clean up your street

Ideas for any project should come
from within the community itself

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Papering over the cracks
Following education cuts, a foreign organisation decides that the solution is to buy textbooks for your children.

If the problem is government policy then
aid projects should address this as well.

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Enter the expert
You are provided with the free services for a year of a professional lobbyist to argue your case with local government.

Projects do not have any lasting affect unless they
are a learning process for everybody involved.

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Individual salvation
An agency offers to help with just one child in the street – on condition that s/he writes a series of nice thank-you letters.

Individuals should not be singled out for special treament –
nor asked to demonstrate a demeaning form of dependence.

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The technical fix
Because of your low wages you are offered a food blender so you can make nutritious soups out of seaweed and food waste.

Avoid technical solutions to social and political problems

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The well-meaning volunteer
Your community is offered the services, as a volunteer, of a wealthy foreign graduate in Islamic theology with a shaky knowledge of English.

Irrelevant volunteers can be more trouble than they are worth.

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Paying for prestige
Because of local environmental pollution you are offered a well-equipped ear, nose and throat clinic. The clinic is free but the community will have to pay the running costs.

Keeping up the payments on prestige projects
can take what little money a community has.

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Controlling the cash
To receive a small grant your overworked co-operative has to send regular, detailed accounts to the donor organisation -– and entertain a constant stream of foreign visitors.

Donors should have more trust – and not tie up
projects with time-consuming administration.

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Lumbered with lessons
To improve nutrition levels in the community, working mothers are instructed not to ise convenience foods and are given lessons in making wholesome natural meals which take hours to prepare.

Women already work hard enough – the
load should be lightened, not increased.

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