Non-Governmental Imagination

“Be strong, beautiful. We weren’t meant to last, but we’ve lived a lifetime”
March 3, 2006, 8:20 am
Filed under: Funny, Imagination, International Aid

I found The Onion’s take on Norm‘s motivations for joining the Peace Corps absolutely hilarious. That said, a coworker who I like and trust found the piece offensive. So I hope that it doesn’t offend anyone, that is certainly not my intention. I think it’s funny because I get a lot of emails at work from people who want to help themselves via helping others:

“I want to go to someplace exotic and extreme like India or Brazil for three months during my summer break. I am a high school senior, have taken some Spanish classes, and would like to be on a co-ed program. It’s ok if you don’t pay me any money since I’m sure that I will be in an economically disadvantaged community, so I’ll be perfectly happy with free room, board and a plane ticket (and a safari/trek after the program). I have always wanted to help people, and view your program as an excellent way to help others and give me the insight I can use to be accepted at a top university. I’ve heard that I really need to play up my volunteerism, but working with the poor in tropical countries seems more exciting then helping those in my community.”

Ok, I made that up. And it’s more exaggerated than what actually crosses my desk. But lots of people seem to think that volunteering is about the volunteer. Norm does. I don’t.

I must admit that when I was younger I had thoughts like these. I wanted to help others but not give anything of myself. Well, that’s not often the case. It really took me a long time to understand that I can be happy knowing that I am helping those in need doing thankless work that is imminently needed. Even if it’s not exotic, co-ed or fun.

March 1, 2006, 8:24 am
Filed under: Imagination, International Aid, Jerks

So Republicans think that Hugo Chavez’s plan to give homeless shelters and poor Americans discounted heating oil is “part of an unfriendly government’s increasingly belligerent and hostile foreign policy”? Why? The US government gives away billions of dollars in aid every year to the world’s poor. Would they like it if it was vieiwed as belligerent and hostile?

If the US governement wants to make Chavez look bad, belittling the entire concept of international aid as merely an influence-peddling political tool is no way to do it. After all, people might start to believe that, and then USAID will be viewed as nothing more than pure propaganda. Plenty of folks say it already is. Pronouncements like this do nothing to help.

Regardless, what’s wrong with people trying to help the poor? It should shame the US government that homeless shelters face budget shortfalls. If I ran a shelter I’d be calling up the Venezualean embassy as fast as I could. Free stuff rules.