With the fragility of the economy in the West many agencies, churches and individuals, have had to make drastic cuts in their support budgets. This has forced many to look at what they support, how they support and why they are supporting various people and projects.
The present situation is in my opinion unsustainable and we have to have a fresh look at how we in the West support projects and people. I would suggest that ongoing support with no end in view is not the way forward except in exceptional cases. Such support often leads to an unhealthy dependency on the donor. I realise that for some who support orphan children what I am suggesting is difficult and I will deal with that subject in another article.
What I am trying to say was exemplified in Uganda. Several years ago now Mike Godward and I looked at the possibility of supporting six pastors in Northern Uganda who were doing a great work but living in abject poverty. Rather than simply raising finance to support these pastors we decided to raise some funds and initiate what has now become known as M.E.D or Micro Enterprise Development. The pastors put forward their plans and loans were made and today they have a business that supports them and their families. The money loaned is still circulating with others taking advantage of the project. These pastors are now self supporting with the initial costs having been repaid and they have their dignity - not having to live dependant on Western support, and in my opinion, a much better way forward.
In Links International, we have since those first ventures into M.E.D. have seen this project explode with over 4,000 families in Uganda alone being lifted out of poverty able now to educate, feed and clothe their children and themselves. The money is now being recycled to other families. If for any unseen reason we could no longer work in Uganda, families would not suffer by our absence or our ability to put in yet more finance.
This is one way of investing into what we regard as needy situations. We can also help by teaching about health issues so we in Links, and we are not the only ones, began to develop what is called Community Care. If we can improve the health of people this will help regarding the ability to work, and it is always better to deal with prevention rather than cure! In Links we have dealt with such issues as good nutrition, the washing of hands after using the toilet, Aids and the related problems of this condition, care of infants dealing with such subjects as fevers, diarrhea and dehydration. We know from surveys after teaching on these subjects, the lives of many babies have been saved.
We are often asked what about disasters? The truth is that we have helped in some of these situations as we did at the time of the tsunami that hit the coast of India. Links International decided long ago that this was to be the remit of much larger organisations and governments and if we could help in rebuilding we would only do that through the relationships that we already had. By working in this way, finance quickly reached where the needs were and because of the established relationship, we knew that we had accountability in place to ensure that the funds were used for the right purpose.
In the next article we will continue to look at issues such as orphan care, vocational training and the value of Western missionaries.