Not Made to (Irresponsibly) Aid

isolated-charity-piggy-bankIn a world where the profit, planet, and people have started to blend, symbols of charity seems inescapable.

When I walk the streets of D.C., I notice the power walker in front of me – blazing ahead of me in her shift dress, swinging government badge, and brightly colored TOMS Shoes. When I fetch the mail or check my email, I’m always finding new flyers that are peppered with facts and  reasons to donate. Then there’s Christmas and being able to count on seeing the iconic Salvation Army Santa Claus. Finally, when I check out at the grocery store, I do have this internal battle – to give or not to give to a charity in that moment.

Yes, that truly is the question, and admittedly I’ve given quite a bit in the past.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize that when I do give my time, money, or talents to a cause, I do get that deep and warming satisfaction in believing that, for one moment, I’m contributing to making a difference in someone else’s life. Donating something can be a selfless act, and the the United Nations has designated September 5th as the International Day of Charity to recognize this fact.

At its best, charity is the voluntary act of giving something to someone else in need. According to the United Nations, this can contribute “to the promotion of dialogue, solidarity, and mutual understanding among people” when done well. However, as we’ve discussed several times in Everyday Ambassador on our Field Notes column and Wednesday Wisdom weekly series, not is all charity is inherently good for the individuals affected.Truthfully, pity can be a poison, and charity from foreigners can disrupt local markets, norms, and social conditions in unanticipated ways that may prove harmful.  It’s important to recognize then that, while the act of giving itself can be good, giving responsibly is better.TOMS_shoes

So before you “give the gift that keeps on giving”, educate yourself on the various perspectives of responsible aid. For this edition of Bucket List, we’ve provided you with some ways to kick start your education.

  • Know your organization. Before you give, consider the organization’s mission and vision statement, campaign, and means to achieve their goals. Read up on rankings, news articles, and how they’re perceived by foreign and local communities.
  • Study up on your field notes. Read up on different perspectives of aid, like those from Dambisa Moyo’s book Dead Aid and Bill and Melinda Gates’s blog Impatient OptimistsFrom there, see if you can draw perspectives from other authors, international organizations, and media outlets.
  • Shop around for responsible fashion. There are a lot of clothing and accessories brand that encourage you to shop for a cause, but not are all made alike. Shop around for brands that put an emphasis on the livelihood of the worker or the people benefiting from your act of charity.
  • Find empathy and perspective. Remember that the people you’re trying to help don’t deserve your pity. When you doing anything charitable for someone else, treat him or her with a sense of dignity and respect. At the same time, be mindful of cultural differences.

Have additional suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment, and if so, we may feature your comment in an upcoming post.


“Bucket List” is a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador brand strategist Audrey del Rosario. Every Saturday, we will feature events, conferences, and happenings that spark conversation and ignite your inner activist. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #bucketlist or #EAinspired on our other platforms, and check back regularly for updates.

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