Why Good Intentions Aren’t Enough……

One of the things that I’ve seen happen over and over again in the decade that I’ve been involved with orphans is that good intentions aren’t enough.    Let me explain……

After the earthquake in Haiti, there were many people who were and are still working on building orphanages.   They automatically assumed that because of the horrendous casualties from the earthquake, that more orphanages were needed.   That wasn’t and isn’t true.    While the intention of caring for kids is a great and noble intention, doing it by building an orphanage isn’t necessarily the best way to do it.  

There are other ways to help children – for instance, a friend of mine, Megan B founded Respire Haiti after the earthquake as a response to the need she saw in Gressier.   Check it out at http://respirehaiti.org/.   Is that an orphanage?   Nope, they help rescue child slaves, provide food, education and hope.    The same intentions to do something good for the children but a different result.

Another friend of mine tells the story of a short term misson volunteer who “made friends” with one of the neighborhood kids.    That child, let’s call him Ralph, started asking the volunteer for a bike.   Now obviously, the volunteer hadn’t brought a bike in his suitcase, but he really felt the persuasive powers of a cute smile and irresistible little boy.    So, the volunteer arranged to get a bike down to Haiti for Ralph.

When Ralph got the bike, he was ecstatic.    He got on the bike, started wobbling his way home (riding bike on Haitian roads isn’t easy).    Well, he rounded the first corner and there was a “group” of bigger and stronger boys waiting for him.   They proceeded to beat him up, steal the bike and leave him laying on the road with a bloody nose, bumps and bruises.    Let alone with a hurt ego and a bruised self esteem.

Did the volunteer have good intentions?   Absolutely.

Were good intentions enough?

No, they weren’t.   They didn’t take into consideration the local dynamics, the culture, the realities of the country that are different than where the volunteer lives and works.

That’s why The Vulnerable Project is built on two important principles:

  1. We will work with organizations who have a history operating in the country.   They know the area, they know the people and they know the realities of what is needed and what is productive both short term and long term.
  2. We will work with organizations who have a long term view of their role in the country.   That means they aren’t there for a short term “give them a fish” type  of outcome.   Instead they are there with a longer term, “teach them to fish” attitude and focus.

Good intentions are good, but when you’re dealing with work in the 3rd world, good intentions are not enough.   You need to either have a solid working understanding of the local culture and customs or you need to work with someone who does.

We don’t intend to assume that we do – instead we’ll work with people who do understand and can help us match good intentions with good deeds.

I hope you’ll join us.


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