I think that God has given all of us a desire to help others. A smile, a hug, a bed to sleep on, a warm meal, cash, goods, time, service, the Gospel, etc. - so many ways to give to others and all of which are very good.
Out of the thousands of local and overseas volunteers that have visited the HoH campus throughout the years, most have come with the genuine intent of helping and we are so grateful. Unfortunately, others are obligated to fulfill corporate social responsibility or to feel good about contributing; maybe to check a tick box for volunteerism.
February 2016, severe Tropical Cyclone Winston ripped through Fiji. It was the strongest to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Homes of Hope put out a plea for people to donate necessities so that we could take them to our families in the communities in which we have worked. While many of the donated items were of great help, we also received bales of clothing which consisted of high-heeled shoes, cocktail dresses, heavy coats, sweaters, faux fur stoles, torn clothing, etc.
That was giving that hurt.
That was giving to get it done with, to feel good about themselves. That was giving that slapped the hurting in their face.
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . . and Yourself is a 2009 non-fiction book by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It has become the go-to resource for evangelicals thinking about short-term mission’s trips and economic development for the poor. Quoting from an article that was written about this book:
“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable,” wrote Corbett and Fikkert.
Westerners often view poverty as lacking material needs and ignore the underlying issues, they wrote. Instead, poverty is a sin-induced strain in a person’s four key relationships—with God, creation, others, and self. While everyone experiences some relational poverty, for certain individuals the effects of devastating relational poverty lead to material poverty.
Attempting to alleviate material poverty without addressing the underlying relational strain will not only fail but will also tempt resourced Christians to view the materially poor as lazy, Fikkert and Corbett wrote.
The residents at Homes of Hope are materially poor, but they definitely are not lazy. They are in need of people to come alongside them to build relationship, to address the underlying relational strain in their lives.
I realize that I risk the potential of losing donors and supporters by asking them to not play the hero. While we greatly appreciate any donation, please be considerate and consult us first to ensure you are actually meeting needs. Take the time to develop relationship with us so that when you do give, when you do volunteer, your investment is effectual.
If you are wanting to come from overseas and volunteer– please check the motives of your heart. You are not the great white hope; you are a broken vessel - along with the rest of us - who needs a living Savior. You will learn more from the Fijian people in the short time that you will be with us than you will be able to teach them. Have less confidence in having all the answers and more humility to step back and learn. Come to build relationships, not solve problems. Talk to girls and staff, play with the kids, sit and have a cup of tea.