Sustainable Service

This morning's post is from guest blogger Kevin Scott. Kevin and his wife Laura are currently in Kenya on their second visit with CARE for AIDS. You can read the original post on Kevin's blog. 


This morning, I’m waking up in Nairobi, Kenya. This is my third trip to Kenya, and my second time serving with CARE for AIDS.

In preparation for this trip,  I reread When Helping Hurts and was reminded of the reasons why I am so passionate about working with CARE for AIDS. They have a clear mission and understand what needs to be done to accomplish their goal and incite real, lasting change.

Unfortunately, not every missions organization, nonprofit, or church group understands that there are wrong ways to help communities in poverty, and though their intentions are pure, the consequences are negative and significant.

In When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert give many examples of harmful philanthropy, but two specific problems stick out to me: economic hurt and creating a dependence.

1. Economic Hurt: It is easy to assume that fulfilling the material needs of a poor community will be helpful to them. Unfortunately, this assumption often hurts a community in the long-run because it fails to stimulate their economy. For example, if you decide that you are going to bring enough blankets for every family in a village, the woman who weaves blankets for a living may never get business again. She will stop making money and will become even more in need than she was before you came to help.

2. Creating a Dependence: You can give a man to fish, or you can teach a man to fish. Which do you think will be more helpful long term? That’s right—teaching a man to fish will allow him to be self-sufficient when you’re gone. The problem with many organizations is that they want to fill an immediate need, rather than take the time to prevent a future need. If more time was spent educating and equipping people in need, they would be less dependent on government systems and philanthropic organizations and more able to be active members of society.

CARE for AIDS works to prevent both of these problems in their ministry and is one of the most impressive nonprofits impacting the world today. I believe that what they are doing has a lasting impact for three reasons.

1. They have identified a clear problem. In East Africa, a large percentage of the population struggles with the impact of AIDS. Although many people have access to the right medicine, they do not have the education, emotional capacity, or spiritual drive to use these resources appropriately. Because of this lack of care, parents fighting AIDS often die prematurely, leaving their children to grow up as orphans.

CARE for AIDS has a clear goal: orphan prevention.

2. They help for a defined period of time: CARE for AIDS works through local churches to take parents with AIDS through a nine-month program designed to educate, support, and empower them to live long, self-sufficient lives with this disease. They educate these parents on how to use the medicine they need and on why it is important. They provide the emotional and psychological support necessary to prepare to live life with this disease. They also share the gospel with these parents, giving them a hope beyond this life on earth.

3. They are solving a need that a lot of people don’t see: After graduating from the CARE for AIDS program, clients will live an extra 20-25 years. This means, despite their HIV status, they will live to raise their children and even see their grandchildren. Instead of ministering directly to orphans, their goal is to prevent orphans altogether, and the work they do is helping maintain healthy family units throughout East Africa.

When you’re choosing to give your time and resources, it’s important that the cause is worthy and the solution is sustainable.

Are you giving to causes and charities who do this well? 
Consider working with an organization like CARE for AIDS and be a part of making a lasting impact on the world around you.