Categories for Good Intentions

Momos for Nepal

How the Nepalese Diaspora Rallied Together in the Wake of the Nepal Earthquake

Disaster Survivors Don’t Need Bottled Water

We all know people can survive for days without food, but not without water. This tenet of human biology often drives individuals and organizations to donate bottled water in the aftermath of disaster.

Good Intentions Hinder Response to Canada’s Wildfires

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have heard that wildfires continue to rage in Alberta, Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported yesterday that 1,000 additional firefighters from across Canada, the United States, South Africa and other countries will soon join the 1,200-member crew working to contain the fires that have destroyed homes, land and livelihoods.

Don’t Wait – Communicate!

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.

When are aid ceremonies appropriate?

If I understand correctly, three times a year donors travel to the reservation for a traditional Navajo ceremony. During this ceremony the donations are given, and the money from the sale of the rugs presented to the weavers. Although my acquaintance described the ceremony as very moving, I question it on several levels.

What to look for when evaluating an aid agency

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.

Aid agency advertising images

You see a commercial on TV or receive an advertisement in the mail with the picture of someone in need. You reach for your checkbook to donate. But before you stamp the envelope or click the "donate now" button, imagine that instead of it being someone else far away, it is an image of you, your child, or you family. Now ask yourself these four simple questions...

Four reasons to NOT donate baby formula overseas

Dependency, malnutrition, illness and death can be unintended consequences of donating baby formula overseas. NICEF, WHO and WFP call for support for appropriate infant and young child feeding in certain emergencies, but caution against unnecessary and potentially harmful donations of breast-milk substitutes.

Guideline #4 for volunteering overseas

Manage your expectations: Although volunteering overseas can be a life-changing experience, it’s also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Many people have an unrealistic expectation that their experience will be as glamorous as it seems in the Kashi commercials.

Disaster Tourism

As director of D-TRAC I was often asked to orient heads of aid agencies and donors on the tsunami recovery... View Article

Guideline #4 for Volunteering Overseas

Although volunteering overseas can be a life-changing experience, it's also one of the hardest things you'll ever do. Many people have an unrealistic expectation that their experience will be as glamorous as it seems in the Kashi commercials. Managing your expectation before you volunteer will help you have a more successful volunteer experience.

When is it appropriate for a donor to visit an aid recipient?

Reflecting on the debate over disaster/poverty tourism a couple of weeks back some bloggers, such as Tales from the Hood and Pepy Tours, have argued that there is a benefit, if done right, of donors visiting aid recipients. And, if done right, I agree. One of the common complaints after the tsunami was that donors did not come and check whether aid work was done well or learn about the real needs of aid recipients. Donors do need to have a greater understanding of what does and does not work in aid as well as common problems associated with aid. Properly structured visits can help them become better donors.

Guideline #3 for Volunteering Overseas

The debate over voluntarism seems to be coalescing around one point – motivation matters. Before volunteering it’s important to have an honest conversation with yourself and examine your motivations and whether putting yourself in the lives of aid recipients is the best way to meet your needs.

No Silver Bullets

During dinner with my brother last weekend our conversation turned to microfinance and the fact that it’s not living up... View Article