When a handout hinders.Mozambique was and still is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past 9 years we have seen the economy of Mozambique improve yet many people still live in absolute poverty. How can we help these people? The answer for many Mozambicans is to look to other nations to give them a handout. They want to be given houses, food, vehicles, schools, churches, hospitals, businesses etc…. but does this actually help? From a donor's perspective it depends on the desired outcome, if handouts are given by donors in an attempt to make the donor feel they have done something, it does help. If the donors desire is to help a nation stand on their own two feet, a handout can hinder the objective. For the recipient it does help - momentarily. And there in lies the problem - it is not sustainable and perpetuates the lie that the only way to help developing nations is to give enough handouts to 'get them started'.
An example of how handouts do not help is by building a water system to supply a town with clean drinking water. A wonderful objective, but if outsiders come and do it, within a relatively short period of time the whole system will break down due to a lack of maintenance. Because the people expected to maintain the water system (recipient) are not the ones who sacrificed to build it (donor). The recipients have little sense of ownership, nor do they understand the importance or methods of preventative maintenance and in may cases they believe it is the donor's responsibility to do maintenance not their's.
To understand what I am saying consider two seventeen year old boys, both want a car, one boy's parents give him a car, the other boy's parents help their son find a job to buy his own car. Which son has learnt the most and which son is more likely to care for his car? One lesson learnt by buying their own car is delayed gratification. The power of achieving a goal over time. Not borrowing to have it now and working later, but the power of saving first and buying later.
We have met many in Mozambique who have decided that the answer to meeting their financial needs lies in relationships with people from the west. The view is that westerners have no end of resources. The Mozambican establishes friendship with the view that "the westerner is my friend so I can benefit from them". If a donor (friend) helps them build a school, The recipient can take some as a wage and "borrow" some to build their house, buy a car and gain an increase in their standard of living. Some have worked out that the church is very generous so to build a church comes with the same benefits.
These people have little idea what those donors in the west have sacrificed to assist them nor do they know the amount of hours people put in at work and the expected output during those hours. When a third world nation catches that it is hard work and creative, progressive thinking that creates a better standard of living they grow. Take China and Korea for instance both these nations have an expectation that people will work hard and both nations have huge increases in recent decades in their GDP.
I believe every time a person is given a free lunch it reinforces that their provision will appear, dependent on who they know, and that it is not dependent on how hard they work.
The answer lies in that we should be looking for ways to educate, encourage, train and equip a nation to identify and problem solve their needs which in turn give long term benefits that are not reliant on the continual handouts from other nations. This is the way to help which benefits both the donor and the giver and is sustainable in the long term.