There has been a recent surge in trips based around purpose and giving back so we want to break down what that means. In order to do so we need to dip our toes into an entirely different field to look at what people overseas actually need from us (if anything at all) rather than what we decide they need from us. And by us we're referring to those who donate money to charity, purchase products for good and travel overseas in order to help others or volunteer. This is usually coming from a beautiful place of good intentions and we never want to see this stop, but we do think it’s important to be critical too, so we can truly focus on those we are “helping”.
A story that struck us a few years ago came after the devastating earthquake in Haiti when an unbelievable amount of aid was dumped into the country. This was all coming from a good place, and the immediate relief after any disaster is absolutely necessary, but when that lasts too long we start to prevent the rebuild of lives and instead become enablers of dependency. While some people thrive in that circumstance and are happy taking the aid that continues to flood into their country, many others are driven, passionate people who want to stand on their own two feet. They do not want to be reliant on others for housing, food and water, some of the most basic rights of every human being on the planet.
Back to Haiti where two guys were running a successful solar panel business before the earthquake struck. They had developed technology, built their company and were rapidly growing their sales. Life was good. After the earthquake an unbelievable number of solar panels, solar lights etc. were shipped to the country for an extended period of time. What that meant is that once these two men were ready to set their business back on track, they had no customers because everyone was taking the free solar goods delivered by the west. You see the catch 22 here?!
It can all too often feel as though the interference from the West is designed to suppress, and from some governments that is quite literally the case. Sometimes we need to take a step back to assess the bigger systemic issues rather than focus on sending a pair of shoes to Africa, from a North American business. Instead why not ensure the money is going to an African company making shoes in Africa like Oliberte.
So next time you're on a purposeful trip or just taking time to reflect in the new destination you're in, why not ask locals what they actually need in the short and long-term, because it is important to differentiate between those in order for progress to ever be made. Then on your return home decide where you want to put your efforts, because you may just discover that it's advocating for change at home that can make all the difference to someone's life overseas.