When I was a young boy of elementary school age, I devoted one summer to raising money for a local charity. There was a large used clothing reception center in our neighborhood and on the large bins placed to receive donated clothing was a poster of a smiling policeman asking us to support the PAL, The Police Athletic League. Since the PAL supported my Little League Baseball Team (The Bombers), I was all in. That entire summer, I went from door to door among and between my neighbors and amassed gigantic piles of used clothing. As a reward, I received an interview and a photo handshake at our local police precinct. It was only years later that I learned that all was not as it appeared to be. If the truth be told, I was not raising money for the PAL at all. A used clothing firm paid the PAL a certain sum for the right to use their logo. That firm took the donated clothing, selling as rags that which was unusable, and sending the rest to Haiti at low cost and thereby undercutting the struggling Haitian garment industry. It does seem that no good deed goes unpunished.
When it comes to charitable giving, isn’t supporting a nonprofit like Forging Futures really just putting money into a dark hole? Millions of dollars in foreign aid yield no verifiable progress. Haiti is a struggling country. We read regularly of political corruption, rampant fraud, top down waste and even theft of donated funds—let alone all the needs here. Isn’t giving to Haiti, no matter how emotionally fulfilling, really a waste of time and resources? All good questions! Robert D. Lupton in his very worthwhile book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) writes:
“The compassion industry is almost universally accepted as a virtuous and constructive enterprise. But what is most surprising is that its outcomes are almost entirely unexamined… Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.”-Robert D. Lupton
I read Robert D. Lupton’s compelling work many years ago and decided to take his wisdom to heart. He offers guidelines and warnings and happily urges those of us who work among the poor here, there or anywhere to take an Oath for Compassionate Service.
Never do for the poor what they could have the capacity to do for themselves.
Limit one way giving to emergency situations.
Strive to empower those we are trying to assist through lending and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
Listen carefully to those you are trying to assist, especially to what is not being said. Unspoken feelings may offer essential clues to effective service.
Subordinate self- interests to the needs of those being served.
Observing Lupton’s guidelines and following his advice will prevent a load of frustration and go a long way to sustaining more effective service. Our subsequent blogs will focus on the five prescriptions within this Oath. It will be helpful reading. I am supremely confident that you will rest assured that Forging Futures is vital, sound, trustworthy and worth your support and care.