Philanthropy, do we give away fish, or teach people to fish?
Community Engagement

Philanthropy, do we give away fish, or teach people to fish?

Dylan Lopez

The Delicate Balance of Charity: Empowerment Over Aid



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When we help people, be it monetary aid or other resources, we inherently place a degree of trust in the recipients. We believe they will use the aid wisely and for the intended purpose. An unfortunate reality is that sometimes this trust is breached. Loans go unpaid; funds are misused. Such incidents can leave a lasting scar on our willingness to help and can lead to a cynical outlook on charitable endeavors.

We must then, appreciate that when giving charity we are also expecting something in return. We expect to be able to offer it our way, to be kept safe, and to have the reciever of our support to accept it with a certain grace.

Of utmost importance is the subtle yet significant issue of judging the motivations and behaviors of those we aim to help. It is natural to assess and sometimes question the choices of others when providing assistance. Yet, such judgments can be unfair and counterproductive, clouding our ability to empathize and connect. When rehabilitating an abused animal, we change our tactics to avoid being bitten. At no point though, do we lose empathy for why they behave as they do.

We wholeheartedly embrace the importance of empowerment over mere aid. As was said, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." We praise this act of passing on the skills and knowledge for others to improve their circumstances. By focusing on empowerment, we not only provide immediate relief but foster steady development towards self-reliance.

Encouraging pathways to earn and manage income wisely is a gift that extends beyond immediate bills. To invest in oneself, by extension is an investment in the the community. This approach too mitigates risks associated with direct monetary aid, as it builds capacity over dependence.

The act of charity is a delicate one, requiring a balance of compassion and wisdom. By shifting the focus from giving money to empowering individuals we create a more sustainable and dignified form of help. It's about providing the fishing rod, and education to use it; not just the fish. In doing so we nurture a cycle of growth towards self-sufficiency that benefits all.


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