It is Christmas time, the season of good will and thoughts for better things in the New Year, both at home and globally.
This morning I read a New York Times article that is relevant to many of us, about "finding creative ways to help the world's most vulnerable people."
This article speaks about "what might be called Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid, because it starts with the proposition that it's not only presidents and United Nations officials who chip away at global challenges. Passionate individuals with great ideas can do the same, especially in the age of the Internet and social media."
The author asks this question:
"Are these young idealists unsophisticated about what it takes to change the world? Yes, often. At first, they don't always appreciate the importance of listening to local people and bringing them into the management of projects, and they usually overestimate the odds of success. They also sometimes think it will be romantic to tackle social problems, a view that may fade when they've caught malaria."
"In short, it's complicated.... entrepreneurs fail sometimes. And anybody wrestling with poverty at home or abroad learns that good intentions and hard work aren't enough. Helping people is hard."
"It's fair to object that...accomplishing results...however noble, are minuscule..." that "Well-meaning individuals... help at the edges but don't fundamentally change the nature of the challenge; indeed, charitable construction of schools and hospitals may sometimes free up governments in poor countries to use their money to buy weapons instead. "
But for the person who is passionate about a specific cause, touching the lives of a few can be worthwhile. The possibility exists that these few who have been helped might pass on what they have learned and experienced and become advocates themselves.
In my own case, the work I did in West Africa was erased by the Biafran War. The fact that my children work in their individual ways for the environment and education of the young is a salve for me. I like to think this is about an exponential explosion for good in our futures.
(On the author's blog, nytimes.com/ontheground, he has listed some practical ideas and wise advice for how to help as well as contact information for organizations working at the grass roots, including those mentioned in his article.)