In Parts 1 and 2, you read about the history of Romania and Tanzania, and the funding difficulties experienced by both countries. Today, we’ll attempt to relate the importance of this information.
So why is all of this information important? It is important because evidence shows that the international non-profit community can accomplish great things, with a lot less money, and not forcing Western European or American values on our partners. We met an aid worker (volunteer) from another country who had just enough money to be dangerous. In meetings with local leaders, it was clear that if they would adopt the aid worker’s strategies, things would be better … schools could be built … even though the volunteer’s organization didn’t have the resources to operate or maintain them. Never mind that the schools don’t reflect the same values and were abandoned in the volunteer’s country two decades ago! It worries us because the lure of money and/or new buildings has such an overwhelming appeal to countries that have a history of foreign aid dependence. Aid dependence is discussed daily in Tanzania as one of the curses of the arrival of the international aid community. In their writings and speeches, former President Nyerere, as well as former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, warned of the resulting damage to African nations if aid dependency were to take hold.
Although we may sound negative and full of skepticism about the work we are attempting to do, we are, however, loaded with optimism! Growth of new ideas and the use of new or different strategies are taking place daily by our local partners in Romania and Tanzania through the use of financial aid that is finding its way to the children and their families. It is developing pride, independence and self-sustainability – not to mention hope and an increased quality of life. It is giving people a voice that strives to be successful in effecting policies in both countries. As we have mentioned before, there are, and will continue to be many unmet needs for a long time, but all we need, personally, is to see the smiles that reflect the successes taking place slowly but surely!
In closing, we remind ourselves and others that African is a continent … not a country! Each of the African nations is complex, unique and needs to develop solutions to poverty, disease, nutrition, education and other issues that “fit” their citizens. The “Big Push Theory” is based on the idea that “one size fits all.” History and the experiences of creating just and humane societies worldwide have proven this to be a failed and flawed strategy time and time again.
Thanks for following along on this multi-part blog. Please comment, or ask questions! We look forward to hearing from you.
Rich and Barb