If you haven’t already, read the introduction to this article here.
I didn’t join the Peace Corps because I thought I was going to save the world. I joined because I thought my service would have a positive effect on myself and my community.
The hardest lesson I’ve learned so far is that you can’t help people who won’t help themselves–and we (the western world) certainly have tried. NGOs and governmental aid agencies funnel money into projects that more than anything else, breed laziness and indifference.
Villages with money to spare continue drinking dirty water–not because they don’t know how or can’t afford to dig their own well, but because if they wait long enough someone will give them one for free. It is worth risking the health of the entire village to get something for nothing.
NGOs give away mosquito nets to families to protect their children from deadly malaria. Instead of using these nets, their parents sell the nets on the black market. They don’t recognize or acknowledge the risk malaria poses to their children.
I am surrounded by the reality of “doing good” and I see how damaging it can be. Is it discouraging? Yes. Do I think I’m part of the problem? Absolutely not.
I think Peace Corps is different. I live in my community. I speak their language. Eat the same food. Have insight into their culture and religion. I work side by side with the people of Kedougou every day. I don’t give anyone something for nothing. I expect hard work and dedication from those I help. This means I only work with a small segment of the population. Those who despite the endless freebies thrown at them still have the motivation to work hard for something they want. The only thing I give away for free is my knowledge and my time. I firmly believe that this kind of grassroots development is a positive force for change. And I am proud to be part of it.
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are mine alone and do not represent the positions or views of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Peace Corps.