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ARGH! Who Do You Help? Ethics and Decisions in Donating and Philanthropy

Tragic poverty here… horrific earthquake there…

Lack of basic educational supplies here… lack of clean drinking water there…

How does a caring soul decide who to help?

During the sixth anniversary celebration of Youth Creating Change, Ghana, I gleaned two tips that have since saved me some serious stress about world aid.

Perhaps these tips will help you, too!

Collins giving a lesson.
Collins giving a lesson.

TIP ONE: One Youth, One Community at a Time.

This is the official motto of YCC. And what a calming, wise mantra this is! If you are ever panicking, thinking, “There are so many people I have NOT helped who need me!” then take a deep breath and remember the INDIVIDUALS you have helped, and are currently helping.

Even if you have just improved the life of ONE person, that is an extremely important accomplishment! That person will likely go on to aid many others, and thus you have made an even bigger impact than you realize.

Such wonderful young people!
Such wonderful young people!

The old story goes: A man was throwing dying starfish from the beach back into the sea to save their lives. A passerby exclaimed: “There are millions of starfish along this beach! Your work can’t possibly make a difference!” The man responded, holding up a single starfish he was in the process of saving: “It makes a difference to this one.”

Me with students in Sogakope.
Me with students in Sogakope.

TIP TWO: Help those who will make the most of your aid.

Try your hand at a question posed by YCC staff member, Collins, to the YCC youth during the anniversary celebration:

A frog and a lizard are both sitting sadly on the ground, asking you for help to climb the giant tree nearby. You can only help one. Which one do you help?

Think long and hard about your answer and your reasons for selecting it. Got a guess? Good.

The Answer: You help the lizard. Why? Because if you help the frog up to a branch, he does not have the physical ability to climb higher, and thus he will only plummet back to the ground.

The lizard, however, only needs a boost to the first knot, and he will then be able to zoom upwards to the highest branch!

Focused students in Ghana.
Focused students in Ghana.

Collins told this story to show that YCC wants to help students who have the desire, determination, and strength to help themselves as well.

You don’t want to train someone for years only to have them plunk to the ground, idle!

“We have gathered you here today on this Saturday,” explained Collins to the twenty-five students under the trees, “to remind all of you that we expect you to increasingly take up the mantle of leadership within YCC and within our communities. We do not expect our investment in you to go to waste, but rather we expect us all to continue growing and developing our communities together.”

Students gathering in Ghana for a lesson.
Students gathering in Ghana for a lesson.

Collins paused so that all the voices under the trees could sing out together, joyfully:



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Henry P.

Thursday 26th of February 2015

I thought that the little riddle you gave us was a great example for this situation. I thought that this article will really help people who are stuck on how to help people, and how they should help.


Monday 19th of July 2010

Focus on one thing at a time. If you try to do too much at once, you will spread yourself too thin.

Yes, a good lesson to heed.

When I have traveled internationally for wrestling, I have seen many countries whose wrestling federations are small and need lots of help with equipment and athlete development. FILA, the international governing body for wrestling, sometimes provides financial assistance to developing countries who are trying to improve their wrestling programs, but sometimes, that doesn't seem to be enough. I saw this first hand in the South Pacific. Almost every single country in that continental zone has some sort of need, even Australia and New Zealand, who lack adequate coaching & team funding (both countries place higher priority in other sports & wrestling falls by the wayside). American Samoa needs new mats and singlets. Many of the other islands need the same things. What to do?

On a side note, after doing a little research, I noticed that Ghana is one of the few countries that does not have a wrestling federation listed with FILA. I wonder if there is any history there? I may have to do more research.

See, there I go, spreading myself thin. What to do?

Imported Blogger Comments

Thursday 27th of May 2010

Nomadic Chick said... Two really important points Lillie. One person can't save a nation. But, one can help one or two, even three. Even doing this sends positive ripples in lives we may never observe. :)

March 3, 2010 10:17 PM said... People get so caught up because they want to help EVERYONE and then end up helping NO ONE. Pick your cause and then focus on it. Good words for the day!

March 3, 2010 10:35 PM

Dave said... Profound and succinct message - inspiring stuff!

March 20, 2010 2:47 AM

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