Charity Begins at Home

I’ve heard it so often. From so many people. Different types of people.

Amazing, thoughtful, loving people.

Angry, selfish, arrogant people.

Some are unwilling to even contemplate a different point of view and others almost make the statement as a question. ‘Charity begins at home…doesn’t it?’.

I don’t disagree with the statement. I’ve been a proponent for international aid and development for 15 years. I think we have a huge responsibility to our world for a number of reasons. But I’m not heartless. I care about those who suffer here in Australia. I care about those who are sick, hurting, homeless and living in poverty. And so, yes, charity does begin at home. But it does not end there and it certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t provide assistance for those suffering internationally at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I often forget just how amazing life is here in Australia, just how great certain parts are. I was having a conversation with someone who migrated here over 10 years ago and when they visited their home country recently they were shocked by how unsafe they felt. Life in Australia had dulled their senses and they forgot that going about life without looking over their shoulder or trying to spot danger at every turn, isn’t normal. But it should be.

I’m not saying that every other country is unsafe, nor am I saying that Australia is perfect and nothing bad ever happens, but what we have here is a gift. A gift that we have done nothing to deserve, and one that I believe comes with a responsibility. Let’s support charity at home and everywhere else.

Bad Development

People make mistakes. All of us do. It’s a fact of life. How we respond to those mistakes will either allow us to create something great out of them or it will define us.

Many people give their money generously to a vast amount of charities. When people give, they have an expectation that the money will be used wisely to create a positive impact in a certain area of the world.

Sometimes those expectations are not met and the positive impact is not created, in fact it can actually cause a negative result. I have seen this often with international development. When organisations work in developing countries to fight against poverty a program that they implement with the intention of doing good can backfire and create harm. I’ve heard of projects where the experts convinced local farmers to change their crops, so they could grow more of another type of food which would increase their income. In the end the new crop didn’t produce anywhere near what was predicted, so the farmers were left with less than they would have if they didn’t change, and what they did harvest, nobody wanted to purchase because there was no demand.

That is bad development. But it’s not the end of the story. If we allow it, by being open and honest when things don’t work out, bad development can be the stepping stone to good development then great development and then life transformation.

It’s the same in everyday life. A mistake doesn’t have to be fatal, in fact it can be the greatest thing to ever happen because it brings learning and a fresh perspective.

Buzzwords – Transformation

When you work in an industry for a while there are usually a number of words or phrases that become the flavour of the month or year or decade. Almost cliché like.

In an office environment I would hear ‘going forward’ regularly, or ‘synergy’ or ‘touch base’, ‘circle back’, ‘think outside the square’, ‘reinvent the wheel’…I could go on. Don’t get me started on the acronyms. Oh yes, the acronyms, mostly the TLA’s (three letter acronyms), there is COB (Close of Business), ROI (Return on Investment) FTE (Full Time Employee), ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival – should that not be ETOA?) or my favourite BAU (Business As Usual).

One word that gets overused and under appreciated is transformation. It sounds great but doesn’t necessarily carry with it specific meaning, thus it has become a fancy word that people use when are talking about change. But it’s much more than that.

From an International Development perspective, we talk about transformation in the lives of those living in poverty and it is helpful to define what that actually is. It is more than just change or transition, it is taking something and creating into something completely different.

Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the goal of development is to transform the lives of those living in poverty, which can bring sickness, hopelessness, and disempowerment, into lives that are highlighted by nutrition and health, a sense of hope and a future, and an empowerment to make decisions of their own behalf.

Transformation is a complete change into something new. Not just a better version of what was, but a brand new thing that didn’t exist before.

Now that’s a lofty goal, and one worth striving for.