Good Intentions Are Not Enough

aaa-helping-hurtsETI Helped Without Hurting Before It Was Cool

Interdependence, independence, collaboration, mutual goals have been integral to our organization’s culture from our inception. True collaboration distinguished by going through the hard work of articulating joint goals with benefit to both partners; agreeing to agree; working together with all parties at the decision table and identifying how to know that each partner has been successful. And although this was ETI’s philosophy long before publication of “When Helping Hurts” in 2009, our board and officers embraced the best-selling book.

Why? Because authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert did a remarkable job in highlighting the pitfalls that well-meaning folks in developed countries fall into when ‘helping’ others in developing communities.

What Are Those Pitfalls?

  1. Defining poverty in terms of material goods. Only.
  2. Ignoring mutual brokenness and need.
  3. Fulfilling our own need to accomplish something.
  4. Deluding ourselves that we are bringing deep faith to people who have relied on it for centuries.
  5. Viewing impoverished persons as objects to be fixed.
  6. Labor paternalism (doing things that others should be doing for themselves).
  7. Neglecting to see the assets in a poor community.
  8. Short-term missions; and more…

The Warning

If we do not admit that we have needs and are needy then we idolize ourselves and are held up as need-less. When we do this we cannot expect others to view us any differently. If we present ourselves as having no needs, then we are destined to be perceived as having no needs – “chronic providers”. It is unhealthy to have one entity provide and one entity receive. We need to admit that we are all needy. People who are materially poor have many assets. The materially rich need those assets. Living in the present. Choosing relationship over product. Choosing music over meetings. Spending long periods of time with family and friends. The materially rich need the assets of the materially poor as much as the poor need the assets of the rich. Water equity. Energy equity. Infrastructure. Opportunity for education. A campus. We need to walk together humbly building solid relationships that help meet each other’s needs as they emerge. Any other way sets the stage for unmet expectations, resentment, feelings of being taken advantage of and feelings of dancing with an elephant to name a few. Let’s not do that.

ETI Success Stories

ETI is blessed by its partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania/Karagwe Diocese and the vision of Rev. Dr. Benson Bagonza, Bishop and his Management Team including Dean Yoram Karusya, General Secretary Anicet Maganya who took over for Mr. Erasto Kamihanda, Treasurer George Rumanyika and Rev. Dr. Brighton Katabaro, Coordinator of KARUCO.

At our inception, Bishop Bagonza traveled to ETI headquarters in Minnesota and helped craft an MOU with ETI President, Jan B. Hansen and ETI attorney, Tom Johnston of JOHNSTON Law Group. Together we outlined the boundaries of the ETI-ELCT/KAD partnership. ETI spent two weeks with Bishop Bagonza learning more about his childhood and life in Karagwe, his education, management style, farming and hunting skills and familiarity with developed countries. Board members visited each night and traveled each day as Bishop got to know others in the Minnesota metro.

The MOU is not a panacea and of course there have been struggles and challenges along the way. But ETI never was in a position to fix anything in Karagwe. Our first step with the KARUCO project in Tanzania was one of partnership with folks on the ground – the real experts.

How freeing.

Take a look at “When Helping Hurts”. See what you think.


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