“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
– The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Recent trends highlight the satisfaction of decluttering one’s life; to let go of sentimental attachments to things, and to live more fully with less ‘stuff’. Marie Kondo’s book was a New York Times Best-Seller and flew off the shelves this past summer. Why? A fervent rush to ‘tidy-up’? Not quite. People are recognizing the freedom and joy that comes with owning less. The main take-away from “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is to only surround oneself with what brings joy.

But then, what do we do with all of our discarded stuff?

It is satisfying to give someone something they need. I recently went through my closest to give away items I did not need nor use. All it took was a quick call to my local women’s shelter to determine if they had need for my used clothes and jewelry. Subsequently, I drove my donated goods over to the shelter and knew exactly to whom I was giving my in-kind donations. Not only was I paring down but also giving to a good cause.

If I had not called my local women’s shelter and determined their need, I most likely would have dumped my donations in one of those metal boxes in the grocery store parking lot. I would not have known if my things were needed, nor have seen who it was that my donations were going to, or whether all of it was sold as scrap cloth. Too many mysteries and not enough empowerment – I’d rather give locally!

This holiday season, as we seek to help those in need and share the wealth we have been given—let’s consider needs in our own communities. Blankets, winter clothes and food for local shelters that house the homeless in these cold winter months. At the end of the day, we want to give, but its best and most satisfying to donate locally when giving away goods.


“If everyone donates cash, the effect is cumulative and more tangible as such aggregate impact would improve the lives of not only the recipients but would also boost the local economy.”

I donate cash because I know that cash can be used for many needs. As the recipients know their needs better than I do, donating cash avoids my second-guessing of their critical needs. For example, instead of sending clothing to some needy families in Somalia, I donate cash so they can determine how to best use that cash. The critical decision of whether to have a change of clothing or necessary medication for a sick a child can be made on the ground by the recipients. This has made a world of difference to those receiving my cash donations.

On the larger scale, if everyone donates cash, the effect is cumulative and more tangible as such aggregate impact would improve the lives of not only the recipients but would also boost the local economy. Therefore, I look at the bigger picture when donating and, as a result, I donate cash. Simply put, cash is the best.

Barlin's photo

Barlin Ali, Program Coordinator for Center for International Disaster Information


“What is altruism without effort?”

As a researcher at USAID CIDI, I have spent a great deal of my time conducting research on humanitarian supply chain logistics.  As a result, I now know that the effectiveness of the humanitarian supply chain is critical to the success of disaster relief efforts. We as donors can help logisticians working for professional humanitarian organizations more effectively plan disaster relief operations and better serve survivors by making more effective donations.

When we contribute unsolicited material donations, these can create “logistical bottlenecks” in the humanitarian supply chain that can slow down the provision of aid to those in need.  For this reason, I donate cash to professional humanitarian organizations responding to international disasters because I want to provide them with the opportunity to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

While it’s not always easy find NGOs that are trustworthy, actively involved in a relief effort, or participating in a way that we as donors want to contribute to, the internet is making it easier for us as donors to do our homework and identify professional humanitarian organizations that we want to support. Websites like GuideStar or Charity Navigator allow us to read reviews from other donors that share their experiences with donating to a particular NGO and offer donors the ability to measure an NGOs legitimacy by evaluating their financial statements, tax returns, and more.  This process does require some time, but what is altruism without effort?

As donors, we rarely consider what happens to our donations after we make them. When I think about what would need to happen for an item to leave my hands and enter the hands of an international disaster survivor, it becomes clear that an incredibly complicated and expensive journey must ensue. How much would it cost to send a pair of jeans from Los Angeles, California to Kabul, Afghanistan?  The answer is roughly $202.05 if you bought the jeans at WalMart and sent them to Afghanistan through FedEx.  Though this isn’t the primary method donors choose to send donations, the process for NGOs that receive unsolicited in-kind contributions is much the same and equally costly.

Monetary contributions, by contrast, provide NGOs with much greater flexibility in the way they can carry out disaster relief operations.  NGOs can exercise bulk purchasing power in countries where the cost of goods in general is considerably less than the cost of the same goods in the United States.  With monetary contributions, NGOs can more easily respond to changing needs on the ground, which is a common occurrence in the wake of severe natural disasters.

I donate cash to international disaster relief efforts for all these reason and simply because monetary donations allow efficient humanitarian supply chains that provide goods and services to disaster-affected people faster.

Eric Chavez (second from left) Senior Research Analyst for The Center for International Disaster Information

Eric Chavez (second from left) Senior Research Analyst for The Center for International Disaster Information

“Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts were unnoticed.”

So if you haven’t heard, #GivingTuesday is all the rage around the holidays! Recognized globally on December 2nd, this day is dedicated to bringing communities, families, organizations, causes and students together for one common goal: to give.

There are so many ways to give back;  whether it’s done anonymously or intentionally, the warm feeling you’re rewarded with is indescribable. The holidays are a time where you are around people you care about the most and every memory is special and imbeds itself into your psyche. That’s what makes it the best time to start traditions; giving a reoccurring role for all to take on and share with their other communities and families.

Whether you choose to give your time, talent, or money, giving back can be done in any fashion. This day fits perfectly between Thanksgiving and Christmas time. So with one day encouraging you to give thanks, another infecting you with cheeriness and acts of generosity, and the one in between actively encouraging you to give, why not donate the best way possible?

Giving money assures that you’ve done your part, and the recipient, who knows the situation best, has comfort in knowing a need is about to be met. I think that is the most important position to view donating from: the position of the recipient. Maybe the need is food and not clothing? How much? What do people need or want to eat? These questions will circulate through the head of the giver who practices #smartcompassion, a giver who channels the desire to give back in the most effective way.

We’re no strangers to donating and giving back. Just because you didn’t receive a tax write off, recognition from a local organization, or a thank you card doesn’t mean your efforts went unnoticed. I think giving money to a friend or family member and not expecting it in return is considered donating. To me, the act of giving itself is what is appreciated by the donor, the recipient, and everyone else.

If you stop and think about it, money travels faster than goods. Cash can meet any need and fill any gap in most circumstances. I think when giving cash, it feels just as good learning that I was responsible for helping build the infrastructure of the organization that feeds children after school as it would feel being responsible for the food they are eating.

With hash tags like #unselfie and #GivingTuesday, this holiday is an excellent way to help push social impact while also giving millennials a chance to be a part of something emerging before our eyes on the platforms we know and love! Great job New York’s 92nd Street Y.

Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

Lauren Chatman, Online Communications Specialist for The Center for Disaster Information.

In the summer of 2005 I worked at a summer camp, earning enough money to purchase my school uniforms and excited by the prospect of riding Metro without an adult. When not working I was glued to the television, watching events unfold after Hurricane Katrina and related flooding in New Orleans . Thousands of moms, dads, children, and elderly people were in desperate need of relief. So many thoughts raced through my mind. What could they have done to prepare for this? What would I do in their situation? What can I do to help them? As days passed, I saw more and more initiatives to support the survivors of New Orleans, yet none of them inspired me to act.

Soon, I started high school; classes and extracurricular activities occupied by mind and time until one announcement thrust Hurricane Katrina back into my consciousness. All after-school activities in the gymnasium had been cancelled or moved to a nearby recreation center so the gym could shelter survivors of Hurricane Katrina who relocated to DC.. There were no ready answers to our many questions: how were they chosen, did they volunteer to come to DC, when would they arrive, how long would they stay, and will they have beds and supplies? This sparked a conversation with a girl in my homeroom who moved to DC following flood warnings in New Orleans. Her stories about how drastically her life changed left me sympathetic and scrambling to grasp that we are all at risk of life-changing events. How can we prepare for the unpredictable?

Preparing for emergencies within our families and communities is important and potentially life-saving. So is preparing oneself as a donor, being ready to give aid to people impacted by disasters. Are you prepared to help others in the most effective and efficient way possible? When disasters strike, many people’s first impulse is to collect food or clothing; it is not unusual for community and local groups to collect thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know whether it’s actually needed, how they will transport it or who will distribute it. We all want to help affected families in difficult circumstances, and it is important to remember that material donations not specifically requested by relief organizations can actually slow the process of delivering essential supplies, as they take away precious space, personnel, time and other resources from life-saving activities. For those who want to send material things, it’s important to “connect before you collect” and identify a relief or charitable organization beforehand that needs and can distribute the collection. Charitable preparedness!

Being prepared is a skill and it can be a challenge. In light of National Preparedness Month, I am reminded of that summer before high school. There was little difference between what my classmate shared and what the news recounted after Hurricane Katrina; it was the same story from two different perspectives. Both of them inspired me to think hard about priorities in preparedness. As a donor, I may be tempted to donate clothes and other things I no longer have need for, but realized that the best way for me to thoughtfully express compassion starts with being absolutely positive that what I give is needed and requested.

That’s why Cash is Best! Cash donations to relief and charitable organizations working in disaster-affected communities can be used immediately to purchase supplies that are urgently needed, while supporting the local economy. Sending coats that don’t fit any more or out-of-season shoes to disaster sites can disrupt relief operations by taking up space needed to manage and distribute life-saving supplies. Therefore, it’s important for donors to understand that in-kind donations can be useful in the right circumstances but very harmful in others. For more information on donations and why cash is best, please visit: www.cidi.org.


When people hear I’m writing a book on aid I immediately get asked about specific aid agencies they gave to. Unfortunately, I cannot tell them the quality of those aid agencies without spending time to research them. What I can tell them is how they can research the aid agency themselves.

Evaluating aid agencies before donating is critical

If you don’t have time to research an aid agency, then I would suggest not donating. There is no body that regulates aid and no outside entity ensuring that the aid agency is providing quality aid or working in the best interest of those you want to help. Without properly vetting an aid agency before giving, you risk your donation being used on programs that may do more harm than good. To ensure that your money is doing the good you intended you have to look past aid agency advertising, name recognition, and “happy stories”, and instead look for evidence that the aid agency is following best practices and constantly improving their organization.

Do the aid agency photos show the aid recipients as people with dignity and ability or do they show them as helpless victims. We’ve all seen photos of people in tears looking at their destroyed homes or emaciated African children covered in flies. If that was your child or your sister in that photo would you want it used for an international fund raising campaign, or would you feel it was exploitative? There are guidelines being developed for these photos. The gist of the guidelines is that aid recipients should be shown as people with dignity and ability, rather than hopeless and helpless.

In general I find that if an aid agency uses a photo that shows the aid recipient as having dignity and ability, then the aid agency is likely to have the organizational philosophy that aid recipients are able people, and the projects they develop are more likely to treat them as such. If an agency uses photos that show the person as helpless and hopeless, then they are likely to have a similar organizational philosophy and treat them as such. Which way would you rather be treated?

I have a lot of respect for aid agencies that regularly evaluate their work and share the findings, both positive and negative, with the world at large. If evaluations are rigorous and then acted upon by the agency, it can lead to real improvements in the organization, ActionAid is a good example of this. It is not easy for an aid agency to share their negative findings because it puts them at a disadvantage in competing for donor dollars with those aid agencies that do not share their negative findings. However, it is critical for the industry to grow and improve as well as for donors to be able to hold aid agencies accountable for that improvement.

Evaluations should be done on a regular basis. Either yearly as ActionAid does or at the end of each major operation. Annual reports or “happy stories” do not count for evaluations because their is no independent evaluation of their accuracy, therefore it is far too easy and tempting to focus on the positive or disregard the failed projects.

Some aid agencies may argue that project evaluations are too expensive and donors don’t want to pay for operational costs. While I agree that evaluations can be expensive, there are ways to have a less expensive evaluation done, for example working with a local university to have college students perform the evaluation. If it is not possible to find affordable ways to evaluate your project then share what you have tried with the donor so they understand what you have and have not been able to evaluate. Unfortunately, far too much emphasis has been placed on rating aid organizations by their operational costs, leading to donors unknowingly preventing aid agencies from paying for things such as evaluations. This will only change as donors begin to understand the negative impact of not covering operational costs.

If an aid agency does not have the findings from independent evaluations available on their website you should consider whether you want to donate to them. If they haven’t conducted evaluations they are not being professional, and if they have conducted them but have not shared them they are not being transparent. When donors begin to give preferential funding to aid agencies conducting and sharing needs assessments, they are rewarding aid agencies for evaluating their work and financially encouraging other agencies to improve their practices.

If you want to take this one step further, read the most recent evaluation findings and then check that against the current work or funding proposal of the aid agency. Do they appear to have made improvements to their work based upon their evaluations?

If an aid agency is asking for your money, you have the right to know that they will use it responsibly. Unfortunately, in the past this has meant primarily focusing on the amount spent on administrative or operational costs. As stated above this, unfortunately, can do more harm than good.

Instead, I’d recommend looking for audit results from the past three years. A recent posting focused on one of my articles where I made this same suggestion. One of the comments posted was that audits were only legally required for large charities, and therefore didn’t apply to most organizations working in the field. I would argue that it is good financial practice to have annual audits regardless of the size of the agency.

If the audit results are not available on the website you may need to request them. If an aid agency refuses your request consider carefully whether you want to donate to them. If an aid agency has not conducted some sort of audit they are not actively reviewing and improving their internal processes, if they have conducted an audit but are will not share the results, they are not being transparent. If donors begin to fund only those aid agencies performing annual audits and sharing the findings, they are rewarding aid agencies following sound financial practices and encouraging other agencies to improve their practices.

If you want to take this one step further, look for aid agencies that share their financial information with aid recipients. The aid agencies that have tried this admit that it was difficult at first because the local people may not agree with how an aid agency spent money, but in the long run it made their projects use funds more effectively and reduced fraud.

Often the aid agency will not share their needs assessment, which is unfortunate. However, regardless of whether they are willing to share the actual needs assessment, they still need to demonstrate that they have taken the following factors into consideration.

  • What similar services are provided by the government, why are these services inadequate to meet the needs, have they evaluated how to best support government services instead of duplicating or undermining them.
  • What other aid agencies are in the area and what projects are they implementing. This should focus on areas where there is potential problems with overlapping the work of other agencies or the potential to collaborate with other agencies.
  • Information on the situation of similar schools/health centers/orphanages in the wider area. If you know the general situation you will be better able to evaluate whether the aid that is proposed is appropriate.
  • Information on national standards. What does the government consider to be adequate?
  • If there is no needs assessment, if the needs assessment seems inadequate, or if the project they are proposing does not match the needs identified in the assessment consider carefully whether you want to donate to the agency. If an aid agency has not conducted an adequate needs assessment or is proposing a project that does not appear to meet the needs identified in the assessment, then they aid they are giving may not be needed. If donors begin to fund only those aid agencies that conduct adequate needs assessment and share the findings, they will reward aid agencies that following good aid practices and encouraging other agencies to improve their practices.

    If you want to take this one step further, look for evidence that the results of the needs assessment are shared with other aid agencies as well as the local government and the aid recipients. A common problem in aid is the lack of information sharing between agencies and with the people they are trying to help. This wastes donor dollars by forcing each aid agency to pay for separate needs assessments and frustrates aid recipients who take their time to answer aid agency questions but never hear back as to whether or not they will actually be receiving aid.

    Once you have looked at everything suggested above, if you still feel comfortable about the aid agency, then it’s time to see if there have been any complaints lodged or negative research on the organization. Although this information can be hard to find, two places to look include the BBB and AIP.

    The Better Business Bureau’s Charity Reviews gives BBB ratings for aid agencies registered in the US. Unfortunately, since aid agencies are registered by state, it can be a little confusing because a single agency may have multiple entries. Part of the aid agency rating includes a section stating whether or not any complaints about that charity have been filed to the BBB.

    The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) Articles page has a listing of charities mentioned in AIP articles. It’s worth seeing if the agency you are considering is mentioned at all.

    There are other charity rating systems that can easily be found on line. In general rating systems are based on the 990 tax form and information on the governing board. Several charity rating sites are working on ways to better evaluate aid agency work, unfortunately, none of them currently evaluate an aid agency on any of the factors recommended in this article.

    One commenter states that it is unrealistic to expect the average donor to take that much time to evaluate an aid agency. The commenter points out that the average person doesn’t even do that much research before voting or investing in stock. While this may be true, the unfortunate end result is that people vote for politicians that do not look out for their best interest, lose their life savings on the stock market, and perpetuate poor aid practices that may do more harm than good. Don’t let this be you. For the sake of the people you are trying to help, please take the time to be an informed donor or don’t donate at all.


    “You wouldn’t want to receive something you didn’t ask for or need at Christmas, let alone during a humanitarian crisis.”

    It is Christmas eve and presents are lined beneath my family’s tree. Do you remember that present from a distant relative last year that you opened, cringed and never used? For me it was Barbie dolls when I was sixteen. I appreciate the thought that my relatives put into gifts but sometimes I receive ones I know I will never use. It led me to ask for cash.

    Now raise the stakes exponentially. I’m not talking about holiday gift giving but donations given during times of crisis.

    In Ebola-stricken areas, healthcare workers may give more than a cringe upon receiving in-kind donations of canned food or used clothing when they are not needed or when those needs have been met. You wouldn’t want to receive something you didn’t ask for or need at Christmas, let alone during a humanitarian crisis. Just as I would hate to give a gift I know would be discarded, I would never want to donate goods that would impede a relief effort. Instead, I donate cash.

    It’s difficult to anticipate the needs of a relative; it’s even more difficult anticipating the needs of those in a humanitarian crisis. Cash is best.



    This year’s Christmas tree! (an image from Margot Morris, Program Assistant for The Center for International Disaster Information)


    Smart Compassion has recently been an important issue at the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island.  At the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business Administration, students of the introductory Operations and Supply Chain Management course – BUS 355, taught by Professor Koray Özpolat, have been offered an optional semester-long project called “Humanitarian Logistics Project”

    Building on their logistics and supply chain training, teams of three to four students design public service announcements (PSA) to inform the American public about the most effective way to donate in response to the international disasters. These PSAs are then submitted to the national PSAid contest run by USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI).

    The outcome has been fantastic. In 2012 and 2013, four URI teams were nationally recognized in this contest which created lots of buzz in the university and state media (below, see a PSA that was awarded the 2nd place in 2012). Not only the winning teams but many other students doing this project received satisfaction. A student evaluated the project as follows:

    URI info

    Educators willing to adopt a similar project may take a look at the Özpolat et al. (2014)* paper recently published at the Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education.

    Overall, contests, similar to PSAid, can successfully be integrated into syllabi of college courses as semester-long team-based projects. While only six PSAs are recognized annually, all contestants are actual winners because their entries are ever-green at the contest website serving the humanitarian relief community in educating their donors.

    * Özpolat K.,Chen Y., Hales, D., Yu D., and Yalcin M. G., 2014. “Using Contests to provide Business Students Project-Based Learning in Humanitarian Logistics: PSAid Example”, Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 12(4), 269-285.


    We’ve all heard of, or even volunteered for, popular non-profit organizations like United Way, Salvation Army, Goodwill, American National Red Cross, and YMCA to name a few. Non-profit organizations rally around a common principle, using profits to invest back in projects that address the organization’s interests. The ones we are most familiar with have a charity or a public service component. They welcome and enable people to contribute their time, skills, efforts, and money for a greater good. Organizations that do this play an integral role in the general welfare and economic and social interests of our communities – solving problems and enriching the community. Non-profits can work domestically or internationally on a range of issues, from addressing immediate hardships for people to preserving macro and micro aspects of cultures.

    Do you have an interest in working for the greater good? Human rights, gender equity, environmentally sound development, assisting refugees – I bet there is an organization that exists to address what you care about! Are you interested in giving to or volunteering for a non-profit but you’re not sure what charities are nearby and who needs help? As part of my focus on the Back-to-School season, I’ve compiled a list of non-profit organizations, both domestic and international, that address some of the issues related to going back to school like access to food, books, and a well-rounded education. Thanks to websites like Global Giving and InterAction, we have the resources to explore and support trusted organizations that serve nearly every country and every cause in the world.

    Here are some organizations and projects that I have learned about that might interest you:

    Help 95 DC Kids Extend Learning After School: New Community for Children plans to serve students from Kindergarten through 12th grade and support them in reaching their full academic potential, preparing for college, and giving back time and talent to their communities.

    Increase Graduation Rates In Little Rock: City Year, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for low-income youth. City Year’s Long-Term Impact goal is to ensure 80% of the students in the schools they serve reach the 10th grade.

    The Lunch Box Expansion Project: Chef Ann Foundation believes by changing the way children eat and think about food, we are helping to create a future generation of informed consumers and parents whose food choices will support sustainable, healthy food systems.

    Goods for the Greater Good: Good 360 transforms lives and strengthens communities by mobilizing companies to donate needed materials. The non-profit leader in product philanthropy distributes goods to a network of more than 32,000 prequalified charities, schools and libraries on behalf of America’s top brands.

    Pact:Pact’s vision is a world where those who are poor and marginalized exercise their voice, build their own solutions, and take ownership of their future. Pact accomplishes this by strengthening local capacity, forging effective governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development.

    Donating money to a non-profit enables it to utilize the funds in a manner that best serves its goal. Donating your time and skills to an organization locally means you understand the importance of the cause and think it is valuable enough to your community for you to contribute. However you choose to start the year, I encourage you to donate your time, effort, skills, or money to an organization you believe supports the future you want to see.

    Class is dismissed! You’ve successfully completed the final course in giving back for back-to-school. What did you learn? What do you plan to share? I want to make the final lesson more active than the previous two and hope that my reflections on the fundamentals in starting the school year encouraged you to reminisce as well. I have a couple of questions for you!

    How important can a great foundation be for a student to succeed?

    How do you define foundation?

    What’s your favorite organization? Is it one of the non-profits we mentioned above?

    Share with us below, on your Facebook, or on Twitter! We’d love to hear from you.





    This is a modified repost from a previous month

    Craving beef I stopped by a McDonald’s in Indonesia looking for a hamburger. I was surprised at the menu filled with fried chicken and only one hamburger choice. Both McDonald’s and international aid are affected by market forces. At McDonald’s local tastes of the diners affect what’s on the menu. In international aid the “menu” is often based on the taste of the donors and senior management, not the diners.

    A hamburger analogy

    Imagine aid as fast food. In a top down or “donor led” model, here are some things that could go wrong.

    • The restaurant is paid to make hamburgers, but the local people are Hindu and don’t eat beef
    • The villagers will eat hamburgers but they prefer chicken, which is cheaper
    • The villagers can’t pick up their hamburgers because they are only served from 9 to 5, which would mean missing work
    • The restaurant was built ten miles away from the village and it’s too far to walk every day
    • To save administrative costs the restaurant is only open one day a week. Villagers are expected to pick up enough food to last a week, however, without refrigeration the meat quickly goes bad.
    • An opportunistic family sends each child in separately to pick up enough food to feed a large family and sells their extra food to families not so “fortunate”.

    “Donor led” vs. “Owner led”

    In donor led or top down programs, donors or senior management determine what type of aid will be provided and to whom. Unfortunately, they are often unaware of the needs and limitations of each location receiving aid. If there is no feedback loop programs may waste money and even do more harm than good.

    The following excerpt is from CDA’s issue paper The Cascading Effects of International Agenda and Priorities compiled from listening exercises in 13 countries.

    People also resent assistance that is pre-determined and inappropriate. They say things such as, “NGOs are inflexible in the types of assistance (they provide)…it is top-driven and is simply channeled down to us.”  “Some international NGOs come with their own agendas and are driven and influenced by the priorities set by their donors.”

    One Listening Team summarized what they had heard, noting “There are common complaints that NGOs take a blanket approach and arrive with pre-planned programs.” Another suggested that, “NGOs are often bound by rigid proposal submission deadlines set by donors and this hinders their ability to consult communities.”

    Listening Teams have heard many people express their anger at the arrogance of outsiders who pre-determine need in categories that they feel are biased and inappropriate in their society, or when they apply programming approaches that have been developed elsewhere in quite different contexts. Some used the word “insulted” to describe how they felt when NGOs brought pre- packaged assistance such as very low microcredit loans and training programs based on employment opportunities in other countries rather than their local economy and markets.

    In “owner led” projects, aid recipients pay a key role in determining what type of aid will be provided and how it will be distributed. In addition to the programs being developed to meet local needs, it also gives aid recipients ownership of the program, which increases the chance that the projects will be survive once the aid agency leaves.

    MANGO (Management Accounting for Non Governmental Organizations) outlines Two Golden Rules for managing aid agency field work.

    1. NGOs have to maintain a respectful dialogue with the people they aim to help.
    2. NGOs depend on their field staff and have to empower them to make good judgments.

    The Humanitarian Accountability Partnership – International (HAP-I) has developed a system for training and certifying aid agencies that are accountable to those they aim to serve.

    “HAP certifies those members that comply with the HAP Standard in Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management, providing assurance to disaster survivors, staff, volunteers, host authorities and donors that the agency will deliver the best humanitarian service possible.”

    To ensure that the aid we give does the good we intend, we have to stop giving hamburgers to Hindus. How can we break out of the common top down, donor driven, aid model to ensure that aid recipients voices are heard and aid programs are developed accordingly?


    Going back to school always gave me mixed emotions. Not every year, but at every stage of my education, I felt like expectations of me were bumped up a notch or two. Like going to elementary school after being in daycare, I remember feeling that routine was everything and as long as I remembered how each day was ordered I would be fine. Moving on to middle school after elementary, my new routine included remembering my locker combination and the order and location of seven subject periods. In high school I balanced finding time for my social life while remaining steadfast in my studies. As for college, routine went out the window and time management took over as a preeminent skill to have. Actually, practicing time management in college enhanced lots of other skills for me, including critical thinking, weighing options, and strategizing. Ultimately I realized that while every school year would require an increasing level of life-skills, each year would also involve a lot of repetition.

    I am thankful for the things I knew would ensure my success in school. Taking care of updating my immunization records, keeping a supply of crisp uniforms, and enjoying a hot breakfast each morning gave my parents confidence that I would succeed. New school supplies, new shoes, and a fresh learning environment gave me higher heights to reach. A new grade level, more friends, and increasing responsibilities made me feel like I was in a perfect position to excel. Looking back from elementary to undergrad I’m reminded of that old saying that “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. I understand now that repetition of familiar routines helped to ease my nervousness in each new environment, and each new success builds on prior successes.  Fortunately for me, I had familiar and new things to look forward to every year. But many of us don’t.

    I can imagine the disappointment felt by a student who starts a new school year feeling unprepared and without many successes to build on. There may be concern for the health of a child who doesn’t have updated immunizations and records. There may be feelings of embarrassment for students who return to class with uniforms that have more wears than those of classmates. And I’m pretty sure it’s hard to focus on the lesson at hand when your tummy is rumbling. New school supplies and new shoes are so exciting to return to school with and many of us don’t fully appreciate how blessed we are to be able to have those things. Determined is the child who manages to complete each grade level, make new friends, and handle new responsibilities despite these obstacles.  Try to imagine the difficulty of not having these resources year after year. Repetition of their absence becomes disturbing over time. The repeated cycle of a lack of preparedness at each stage of your educational career can easily become disturbing. Disturbing and discouraging.

    For me, the repetition has changed. This year isn’t about new uniforms or new grade levels, or even a hot breakfast when I’m battling the clock. This year is about new responsibilities, new dreams, new lessons, and maybe most important, new ways of compassion toward others. I’m learning that there are many nonprofit organizations that understand a child’s foundation of success in education goes a long way. They understand that without the proper tools for success children will have more distractions than just their classmates. The distractions hold them back from learning, which sometimes causes a lack of desire to learn.

    Helping others and giving back is a substantial way to contribute to your own success, in education and otherwise. Instead of purchasing uniforms for myself, I could donate to an organization that provides uniforms for students who can’t afford them. I could donate to a back-to-school drive that provides students with the right course materials. Or even donating to a favorite health organization that gives free immunization shots could help.

    Repeating something good over and over again can make it a habit. How amazing would it be to make a habit of donating to your favorite organization when the back to school season arrives? Cool right? Need help finding some?

    Stay tuned for third period where we discuss nonprofit organizations who agree with the fundamentals of back to school.