Toxic Charity Part I

Toxic Charity Part I

“Doing for rather than doing with those in need is the norm. Add to it the combination of patronizing pity and unintended superiority, and charity becomes toxic.” This quote is from the book Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. It reflects the philosophy of WWV in building sustainable communities by walking alongside those in Haiti. We believe that “giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.”  These philosophies and beliefs are reflected in books such as Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert and have been instrumental in shaping our goals and processes at WWV.

“In community building, the producers must be members of the community.  If outside actors are principally responsible for results, then the community will never change, be strengthened, or advance its capacity to deal with its own problems, solutions, and development.” – Toxic Charity.

WWV firmly believes in this statement. The WWV school in Williamson is one great example of this. A small school was started by a local Haitian pastor – Pastor Joassaint Mesilas – over 10 years ago in Williamson. He saw that there were many kids on the streets who needed education. Pastor Joassaint started offering education for just a handful of children – coming up with a solution to a problem in his own community. WWV has since walked alongside him to help fund his school through student sponsorships. Pastor Joassaint continues to lead and develop his school in Williamson with support from WWV. As WWV has supported Pastor Joassaint, he has also been able to tackle other problems in his community, such as taking in abandoned children and discipling young men to walk in godliness.

“When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.” – Toxic Charity.

It’s a struggle for many Americans to not have a “God-complex” or feeling of superiority to those living in third world countries, but WWV understands that Haitians also have the ability to solve problems and are very resourceful. Often the Haitians know how to better solve certain problems in Haiti because they live there and understand the culture and the people. One example of this came after the well was dug for the City on a Hill project. One of the needs in the community in Williamson was access to water.

Thanks to the generosity of many of our supporters, WWV was able to dig a well to bless the people of Williamson. Once the well for the community was functioning, a few issues arose. WWV was hoping to offer the water for free, providing a much-needed resource to those in need. Unfortunately, there was a problem with offering free water. While many in the community were thankful for the new source of water and used the water wisely and cooperatively, there were some in the village who did not.

A few women had started to wash laundry at the well and would not allow others to use the water until they were finished. Others would bring huge water barrels to water their livestock. Keep in mind that it does cost money to run the well. WWV must pay for diesel that runs the generator that pumps the water out of the well, so the water is not free from cost. Pumping gallon after gallon of water for livestock is costly! WWV knew that the best solution to this problem would come from the Haitians themselves – and it did!

A group sat down to devise a solution that included hiring a well manager (Phito) and requiring villagers to pay a small amount for the water they were utilizing. The Haitians also know who in their communities truly cannot afford to pay this small fee and are generous in helping those truly in need. This solution – devised and carried out by the Haitians – has been working!  

Pictured above: Phito (well manager) and Greg Ackerson (WWV Board member)

The goal of WWV is to NOT be a toxic charity. WWV seeks to walk alongside and not in front of the Haitian people. WWV wants to empower and encourage the Haitians who are an amazingly resourceful people, despite their circumstances. In Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton says, “…the poor, no matter how destitute, have enormous untapped capacity; find it, be inspired by it, and build upon it.”

Well said.


Kim Anderson

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