29 October 2007

foreign aid, face-to-face

Fantastic news! All of the money that people so kindly and genderously donated last holiday season has reached its destination at long last: Mwanza, Tanzania.

10 months may seem like long time for a donation to be processed in our wireless, instantaneous age. Unfortunately, I don't have the vast resources of a official charitable organization at hand, and things often happen more slowly in East Africa. After a series of money transfers and events, however, the funds have finally been hand-delivered to 22-year-old Sikitu and her family.

My internship was facilitated through an organization called Western Heads East. The project focuses on sustainability and has thus sent a steady stream of interns to Mwanza to ensure the ongoing success of a probiotic yogurt nutrition program. In addition to their project duties, nearly every intern has ended up volunteering for orphanages, schools, hospitals and other institutions. Also, I am positive that every intern has been touched by the people they have met in Mwanza. Because of these circumstances, I am able to send money to a reliable source, and to be certain it will reach the right people.

Doug Keddy, a gentleman who is in Mwanza helping out the project right now, accompanied Meghan (the intern who is helping me deliver the funds) as she traveled to Sikitu's house. Mr. Keddy wrote about the experience here. Though I have not met him in person, I am grateful that he was able to share the experience of delivering the money on his blog. His rich descriptions paint a vivid picture of one of Mwanza's villages.

Although money can be damn helpful and necessary, foreign aid is more than just money. As Phyllis Pomerantz explains, "Money is a crucial part of the story, but it's not the whole story...just like money can't buy you love, money can't buy you reform."

Although sending money is vitally important, more necessary is sending people to establish sustainable organizations that are run by local people, as they themselves know how to best help their communities. By sending people abroad, we establish relationships with our international peers, to find out what they need, and how we can best use our resources for their benefit. Foreign aid happens when people from two very different countries come together to help eachother. One party may give money, one party may help the other find reason, meaning in life.

Buoyed by funding and donations, foreign aid occurs largely on the ground level, in face-to-face interactions between people. It is wonderful to see--despite the many challenges it has faced--Western Heads East is still present in Mwanza, and sending interns who give their whole hearts to the community there.

1 comment:

WhereIsBisonDele? said...

Hello Dallas -- and thank you for both your kind words and your efforts that led to my having such an amazing experience up Bugando Hill!

Just so that you're aware, both Meaghan ( and Alison ( also wrote about the visit to Sikitu's.

I gather you've already heard from Sandy (Smeltzer, my partner) that the Sikitu story was prominently featured in the centre spread of the Western News this week, too.

Anyway, thanks again; I can only imagine how thankful Sikitu and her grandmother were.