When Help Really Hurts the Poor

The reality and truth of NGO’s and Charities

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

I never understood charities nor NGOs.

I worked for an NGO in Lithuania a while back. The money that would fund a ‘good cause’ be somehow supporting the ones investing money in, the Americans.

I understand the concept of a charity and an NGO’s willingness to help those who need it. However, I fail to understand why it hasn’t worked so far…

We live in the world with many NGO’s and almost everyone supports some kind of charity. It’s amazing to be in the world where everyone wants to help and support others. I know everyone has the best intentions to create a better world with no poverty at all. However, if I read Jason Hickel, The Divide:

‘The dust was settling after the Second World War, European imperialism was collapsing and the world was beginning to take shawm as a collection of equal and independent nations. The only problem was in reality they were not equal at all: there were vast differences between them in terms of power and wealth, with the countries of the global North enjoying a very quality of life while the global South — the majority of the world’s population — was mired in debilitating poverty.’

This was after the Second World War, why are we still in this position maybe even worse position than then? It’s even more baffling we have more NGO’s and charities than ever before why there’s still poverty in the world? Shouldn’t we be better off than after the Second World War with so much more help around?

My husband I watched a fascinating documentary Poverty, Inc which opened my eyes about the whole NGO’s and charities.

NGO’s and charities are massive businesses.

I have always wanted to create sustainable communities around the world. My dream hadn’t changed. I had thought to join an NGO myself, however, after seeing what the NGO’s do despite their best efforts and kindest intentions, I changed my mind. I wouldn’t do it the way NGO’s do it.

The Poor don’t need another Sack of Rice

The poor don’t need another sack of rice they need an opportunity to flourish. When I was in Swaziland and in Tanzania I saw a huge potential for the people of those countries. However, they were poor doing their crafts. Why? Because of NGOs. Let’s take an example of rice. Tanzania has great agricultural opportunities but those opportunities are being crushed by NGO’s.

When the West decided to extend the helping hand, they brought rice to the people of Tanzania. What happened to the farmer that grew the rice? He went out of business because the West brought free rice. Same with cotton in Africa. The West decided to help by giving away the clothes they don’t need.

The clothes are free why do they need to pay for cotton clothes from Africa? The whole cotton industry is put out of business. One day a guy decided to create a brand called Tom’s shoes . If you buy one pair of shoes the other goes to a poor person in Peru. What do you think happened to a business of a shoe maker in Peru?

The problem with this sort of help, is the shoes, clothes, rice that come for free they don’t come all the time. So the people become more poor because it’s not a continuous influx of the goods. The local businesses are out of business. This type of help really hurts the global South in other words the poor countries and makes them even poorer.

The poor gets poorer and the rich richer with the slogan that helps those in need.

The poor cannot get out of the rut with this cycle. When there’s a natural disaster the foreign aid is invaluable, however, when the foreign aids becomes a way of life it is killing the country. Stop Raising Money for Relief and Start Investing in Africa tells a great tale. We should actually really help instead of hurting the poor.

Can we help that doesn’t hurt?

We need to understand, wanting to help comes from the good place and the heart. Our (the Western world) help should empower the poor to create their own wealth not to make them poorer or less fortunate. All the resources are already there. The ways in which we can help is…


The Western world must stop taking the resources from the poor country. If they do take it, there must be some kind of agreement in place where the poor doesn’t become more poorer. The big organisations that fund NGOs shouldn’t be the ones that only benefit from it. The distribution of wealth should be equally shared between the global North and global South.


The West should give tools, access for the poor to create a local business without restrictions. The poor have to have the same process of creating a business like a person who has money. What I mean by it, they have to be able to open a shop if they want to without the government preventing them to do so. Current laws prevents them of creating a new business because of bureaucracy and NGOs.


Provide opportunities and education not money. It’s nothing wrong to boost the poor with whatever they need but that cannot be their way of life. Give them opportunities, education, give them tools to invent themselves. They are not stupid they are just poor because of the circumstance and what the West is doing.

We need to be able to involve the global South as equal partners in businesses and entrepreneurship. Magatte Wade is an inspiring entrepreneur that truly makes a difference with her speeches and work.

Let me be clear I know the help comes from the good heart and place. However, if the help we are giving is not making a difference maybe we should reconsider our way of giving/helping.

The world doesn’t need continuous foreign aid what the world needs is an equal treatment of the global South in other words of the poor. Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they are stupid or they are incapable of doing or creating a business. They need the same level ground rules like me or you to start a business.

Let’s have NGOs and charities that actually do make a difference. I love that we have the world where we can make a difference so let’s do that.

I am a writer who learned to code! I write about personal experiences within a humanist and global context. Find me on Twitter & Instagram @erikachaudhary

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