Brett.Ullman

Category - missions

When disaster relief brings anything but relief

I remember talking to a Director of a Charity that works with the homeless in Toronto a few years ago. He told me how frustrating it is when local churches, schools and other groups just hop on a bus, head downtown and start handing out sleeping bags, food and toiletries (toothbrushes, deodorant etc) to people on the streets of Toronto. He told me that there are some days when people come into their shelter to get meals or to sleep in the evening and everyone seems to be carrying 2-3 sleeping bags, multiple bagged lunches and a backpack of toothbrushes etc. He said he wished local churches would actually call up local shelters and ask them what they really needed. I have never forgot that statement. His point was these organizations are already on the ground in these areas and they know better what things the people they are serving year round actually need.

Thinking of the Fort McMurray fire last week I was talking to a pastor and he said his church was doing a clothing drive for the people of Fort McMurray. I asked if that is what relief organizations, or the Mayor of Fort Mac or even the people who are displaced are asking for? He paused and said “I have no idea.”

I think that there needs to be some intentionality behind the desire to help. I am not saying we don’t help. Just saying we need to think a little before we assume what other people might need.

This article is a decent conversation on this topic. Love to hear your thoughts.

Click here for the entire article.

One Hilarious Video Perfectly Sums Up a Big Problem With Western Humanitarianism

Wow. As someone who has been on 12 humanitarian trips this article asks some really thought provoking questions. I would push back on the comment about the “White Savior Industrial Complex”. This statement is really ignorant of the multicultural society we live in today in North America. Coming from Toronto we have every culture in the world in our city. I might instead call it the “Western Savior Industrial Complex”. Please take a few minutes to read this article.

The video, produced by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH), is satire in the same vein as ‘Humanitarians of Tinder.’ It skewers the trend of “voluntourism,” where well-intentioned Westerners journey to distant places as volunteers with little regard for culture, history or the ethical challenges their presence brings into communities that aren’t their own.

There is nothing wrong with the humanitarian impulse. That those with the time and means choose to devote themselves to helping the less fortunate is noble and to be commended. But as the SAIH video shows, this aid often comes in the form of activities that make little difference or misunderstands the cultural context in which it operates.

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://mic.com/articles/103788/one-hilarious-video-perfectly-sums-up-a-big-problem-with-western-humanitarianism”]