The book Toxic Charity, written by Robert D. Lupton, is one that inspires a whole new way of thinking when it comes to charitable giving and helpful volunteer work. His knowledgable words certainly do not denounce charities, but rather give insight on better ways to provide those in need with necessities. As someone who has been on a few mission trips and helped in many charities through church and other organizations, it is easy to relate what Lupton writes about to my past experiences. I agree with his argument which states that only giving to those in need merely stimulates their dependence on acts of kindness, and does not teach them a valuable lesson of how to eventually become self sustainable and prosperous on their own. Though, through a process which helps build the economy surrounding the targeted people in need, they are taught how to obtain the necessities through honest work instead of how rely on handouts from organizations repeatedly.
A portion of Toxic Charity that stood out for me is when Lupton, while telling a story about a water pump built for a small Honduran village, stated, “The following year, however, as the church’s returning missioners rumbled up the dusty road toward the village, they observed women carrying water jugs as they had done before [the pump was built]” (Lupton12). Since the villagers did not have the knowledge to keep the pump in running condition, when it finally broke down and required maintenance they had no clue how to repair it. Thus, the villagers began to rely on the church to come back every year and fix the water pump for them. This kind of dependence is counter productive when trying to help the village become self sustainable. I agree with Lupton’s conclusion to this dilemma which was practiced in another village in Nicaragua, and states, “A Chicago-based microlending organization commissioned a community developer to assist the residents [of the village] in creating a plan for their much needed well” (Lupton13). By helping the village build a well for themselves, it teaches the residents not to become dependent on charity handouts, but rather gain new knowledge which can be broadened to help the villagers support themselves so eventually they will no longer need the help of an outsourced charity organization.
Another section of Toxic Charity which left an impression on me after reading was when Lupton writes about spending a Christmas in the inner city and watching volunteer groups go door to door in order to hand out presents to the needy. Lupton writes, “After organizing these kinds of Christmas charity events for years, [Lupton] was witnessing a side [he] had never noticed before: how a father is emasculated in his own home in front of his wife and children for not being able to provide presents for his family” (Lupton33). As a person who has volunteered for multiple Christmas charities through school and church, I too have seen the embarrassed expressions on people’s faces as they came to receive gifts for their children which they were not able to obtain themselves. The recipients of the gifts were still very thankful of the sincere gestures, but maybe there is a better, less humiliating, way for the families to receive these gifts.
Robert D. Lupton’s book, Toxic Charity, certainly makes the reader question how charity affects the recipients of the act, and how to more effectively offer help while also instilling necessary knowledge in the people in need. This book did not turn me away from the thought of volunteering in a charity, but rather it gave me a new outlook on better ways to provide the volunteer work which needs to be done. If, instead of handing out help like a free sample at an ice-cream shop, we were to help the people in need build their own icecream shop, then not only would they gain the knowledge and skill to provide for themselves, but they would also potentially achieve a point where help was no longer needed. Toxic Charity is an insightful book to read which gives new, yet still positive, solutions for better ways to volunteer and help a needy community.