Something to Think About
Of the outside organizations that attempt to help West Africans, most
are successful at addressing short-term problems by satisfying immediate
needs. This young girl is a prime example of how many people can and do
benefit from assistance organizations: she has been given food, medicine
and other benefits that would not have been available to her without
foreign aid. But what future lies ahead for her? Can she control her own
destiny, or are there other insurmountable barriers that would obviate the
progress made so far? Worse, could the assistance she's received actually
make her future more difficult, given the culture she lives in? Might we
have put the cart before the horse by solving only the visibly obvious
problems without taking into account the more fundamental and logistically
critical issues that can support a self-sustaining society?
It's better to teach a man to fish than give him catch for a day.
In order to maintain perspective, it's important for us to keep in mind
the interplay between short-term and long-term objectives. Sometimes,
benevolent assistance programs can interfere with long-term goals if
basic things, such as local cultures, are not taken into account.
We can feel a false sense of accomplishment when foreign aid produces
short-term benefits, so a broader perspective must be employed to gain
a realistic road map for the future. The reality is, our assistance
can only do so much - the future of any people must come from within,
and they must be able to help themselves in the long run.