Helping Doesn't Have to Hurt | A Book Review

The Title: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself.

The Main Point: When we let our hearts get ahead of our heads, we can sometimes provide aid that produces dependency and crushes local economy. We should rather try to empower and support communities while they get back on their feet.

I read this book on the airplane, en route to Haiti in April. It's long and rather intense and I took a few breaks to sip my iced Sprite, but it was a good companion while traveling to a developing country that has been hit rather hard lately.

Dependency isn't a foreign concept to me -- after all, I'm doing my best to work myself out of a job as a parent. I'm completely aware that picking up after my children and making all their food won't result in independent, resilient, self-sustaining young adults. They need to be taught, supported, guided, reminded. They need me to be a good role model. And then -- they need me to make them do it by themselves.

If a well-meaning group of parents came into my life purposing to follow my kids around -- picking up after them, doting on them, giving them food and presents and money and more...I would be mad!! Would I smile and say thank you? Perhaps. But then I would get to work undoing the damage.

If we really want to help, we must ASK what is truly needed. Often, long-term financial solutions such as micro-loans or business education are more helpful than temporary aid. In some cases, economies have been devastated by relief aid that takes the place of local industry and enterprise. An NGO from the United States brings in bags and bags of rice and the local farmer is out of business.

In some cases relief is absolutely necessary, but we must keep the long-term in mind! We can't feed a country forever.

If we really want to help, we must get involved on a long-term basis, with our hands and feet and ears and eyes involved, deeply and consistently engaging with developing-world communities. We need to listen to the culture, to the beliefs, to the plan already in motion. We need to recognize the gifts, the talents, the sacrifices already being made. We need to come alongside to support and mentor and love and help make their dreams come true. Not ours.
"A significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time! This should give us a sense of humility and awe as we enter poor communities, for part of what we see there reflects the very hand of God." When Helping Hurts
If we really want to help, we must practice humility. There is no need to come in with a "savior complex", believing ourselves to be superior or somehow less broken than the people we are serving. We have no more claim to the kingdom of God than they do. He has a plan for each human being, no matter what level of poverty they were born into.
"The goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation." When Helping Hurts
If we really want to help, we must make prayer a priority in our lives. When projects become more important than people, we start to lose our focus. We are full of passion and compassion, but forget to ask for the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer keeps what is most important in the front of our minds.
"Positive change is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit, so praying for change is the central tool in the development process." When Helping Hurts
Whether we're supporting a developing country or simply {or not so simply!} raising children, these principles apply. Determine what the true needs are, keep the long-term in mind, be humble, and pray for wisdom!! Helping doesn't have to hurt -- we can be the support network that empowers and encourages and I think everyone will be pretty excited about the results.

I volunteer for a non-profit organization called New Reality International that follows these principles and is working alongside the locals in Haiti, partnering with them as they work towards sustainability. I'm so thrilled to be on their team!

I discuss self-reliance and raising independent kids in my book, Teach Me to Be Happy. 
Click here to read a sample chapter!!