When Helping Hurts

Intentions are not the problem. The intention, the motivation to help and to give assistance is extremely important and impactful. However, there are times when we may give in a way that is not as impactful and effective as giving could be.

This is not to single out and berate the idea of giving. Many individuals, companies, and organizations have made impacting contributions, both monetarily and physically, to those in moments of crisis around the world. Communities and individuals around the globe benefit from such relief, not only in countries in the Global South but also states, cities, and communities in our own backyards.

But there are times, situations, when helping hurts and may, in fact, do more harm than good.

When Helping Hurts

Consider this: your child is struggling with her 7th grade math homework and you, a loving, caring, well-intentioned parent do her homework for her. Is this going to help her complete her assignment? Sure. Is it, maybe, going to allow her to focus more energy on other homework tonight, or get an extra hour of sleep? Yes. But is it going to scaffold the learning and mastery of mathematic long-term? Is she going to be better off next year because of your help? Absolutely not.

This basic theoretical principle can be applied to some forms of giving, even when the intentions are pure.

healing faith ugandaWhen we start to consider these ideas it is important to identify a few types of giving and assisting. The first is relief help, which serves exactly the function that the name implies. It is immediate and temporary. Another is short-term help, which can be viewed as being a sort of rehabilitating form of assistance. Then there is long-term help, which often embodies a very relational type of assistance, where there is often (in effective, positive situations) collaboration among the helper and the individual or community in need.

Perhaps the most important tenet to bear in mind when considering giving aid or assistance (be it monetary or otherwise) is to begin to establish a relationship with the individual, organization, or community that you are assisting. Direct and open communication (and collaboration) is the best way to ensure that you are providing the form of assistance that is desired. In this way you can begin to ensure that your assistance facilitates a lasting and impactful change, making the most of your efforts and building strong ties and relationships along the way. It is important to understand not only the needs and struggles of those to whom you are offering help, but also to understand their culture and beliefs.

The basic idea of careful and intelligent giving applies across the board. When working through an existing charity organization there are ways to ensure that your contributions are being made the most of. Independent organizations such as CharityWatch (www.charitywatch.org) and Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) exist to evaluate and monitor charities to ensure ethical practices and procedures.

At Osana, our goal is to provide all natural mosquito repellent soap to counties in need- but not stopping there. We have a three phase plan to help communities instead of hurting them, and this is the goal we will continue to pursue.

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