Toxic Charity- Hal Baird

After reading Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton, my views on helping the needy have been significantly changed. Everything I have previously thought I was doing right now seems way off the target. Lupton does an excellent job of delineating between good intentions and actual meaningful help for a group of people in need. I have been on numerous mission trips, participated in food drives, and given away so many clothes and thought I was doing the right thing by contributing to the less fortunate. After reading this book I find myself thinking, was I actually causing a long-lasting effect on these people or just helping in the short run? Everything I have done in the past seemed so right at the time and made me feel good about myself, but was I adding to the lack of motivation of the people I served? Charity is a good thing in this world. Sometimes people need something to keep them going when they are down on their luck. This book has taught me how to truly interact with those people and how to give them something that is worth more than just a handout.

The book tells stories of how we spend millions of dollars on mission trips as a country and travel abroad to paint a house, build a church, lay down tile, etc. The book then makes a valid point by saying when we travel abroad to do work, we take away jobs of the local people. We will travel away to lay tile with no knowledge of this skill and do a poor job of it when there are local citizens that are better suited for the job, but there is no work for them. I think the idea is to provide good institutions. Good institutions will lead to economic growth. We need to send funds to a church or organizations so that they can provide jobs for local citizens. One of the most meaningful stories to me was the story of the well. In one place a well was set up for the tribe and all the work was done for the tribe without them paying for anything. Then one day the pump broke and since the tribe did not know how to fix it and could not pay for a new one they just waited around for someone to replace the broken pump. In a similar case an organization assisted in creating a plan for digging a well. they helped make a budget and arranged a loan from the villagers small funds. The village men did all the work and installed a pump. Now the village has an asset that it can use to sell to schools and nearby villages and make a profit.

This book taught me to never take away an incentive. If people know they will receive a hand out, they will not work because they know they will get what they need at some point. The big idea is to allow people to work by giving them incentives. Knowledge is the most valuable instrument and must be given to people so they can move forward. Setting up ways for people to prosper is way more valuable than flying to a remote country and building a bamboo house when you can pay indigenous people who need the money. My views on charities have been drastically altered and I now know the importance of a true charity.


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