Discussions related to charity have always been sensitive because charity is closely associated with religion (another hyper sensitive area). In fact a lot of people believe that being charitable will ensure their success in this life and happiness in the life after. This strong belief has also been gainfully used by beneficiaries to obtain more from their benefactors.
I am not here to discourage the act of charity; I only want to divulge my observations on its effects on the beneficiaries. I know charity is all about giving money, food and other necessities to the needy, but has anyone actually asked who the needy truly are? How do we know who they are? How do we measure their needs? When will they cease to be among the needy? How long will they continue to live on charity? Can’t they be gainfully employed?
And, has anybody else ever wondered why the countries that benefit from charities still remained impoverished? Well, I believe the experts have answers to this. But I bet you that the first excuse everybody will give regarding this is bad governance.
Anyway, I don’t think I can answer the questions concerning the negative effects of charity on the country, but I believe I can give an insight on its effects on individuals. I know that benefactors are also affected, something that most people know, but my focus here is on the beneficiaries.
Charity affects the self-esteem of the beneficiaries. I have seen so many people who, deep down, believe that they can’t survive without the help of their benefactors. Some say it is fate, some call it luck, and others, curse. Some believed they owe their benefactors so much gratitude that they make themselves their benefactors’ slaves.
One that I met recently felt too uncomfortable to submit his CV to a new school within my area because he couldn’t envision himself earning a living. He already had the servitude spirit because he, his siblings and his mother lived off the charity of a relative, who sponsored his education to ND level. So, for him, serving this uncle is the only way he could repay him for his generosity. He believed it is inappropriate for him to look for a job since the uncle needs him around.
Some beneficiaries feel that the act of charity they benefit from is their entitlement. This ordinarily is not supposed to affect their desire to find a source of income. However, for some reasons unexplainable, most of the people that feel this way end up not earning a living. Someone who comes to me every now and then for a little help unwittingly revealed that since I am paid by the federal government, my salary is as good as hers, after all the money is for every Nigerian (*eyes rolling*). I can’t really say, but I believe part of why she wouldn’t apply for a job in a nearby establishment, like I have been suggesting to her is because she believes that I and the others should ‘share’ our earnings with her.
I have equally met people who hold that they are entitled to charity because their benefactors were made ‘rich’ by God so that they could help them (the beneficiaries). Some of them even told me that if their benefactors refuse to help them, his wealth will disappear, or rather God will take their wealth away from them. So, for them, some people are made poor so that the rich will have people to carter for (sounds unbelievable but it is true). In other words, their benefactors’ incomes are also theirs (except that the benefactors are the custodians).
Charity can increase laziness of the beneficiaries and thereby cause over-dependence on the benefactors. This could lead to a lot of social vices because when the benefactor fails to ‘perform’ as usual, the beneficiaries will find other ‘easy’ way to make their living. Also, the benefactors may decide to make these beneficiaries carry out heinous jobs.
There was this woman my mother was always giving food and money to because her husband has no stable source of income. One day she came to see my mother as usual. But my mother told her that she should clear the grasses around the compound so that she will pay her instead of merely ‘dashing’ her money. She did the work halfway and came for the money. My mother gave her half of what she usually gives her and asked her to finish up the work to collect the remaining. She also told her that henceforth, she will be paying her salary for doing some odd jobs in the compound. Of course, this woman ran.
I know that people may think that she begs because she was lazy. But, what if no one gave her when she begged, wouldn’t she be forced to work?
People that benefit from charity do not have the zeal to improve on themselves. Like I said earlier, charity can encourage over-dependence of the beneficiaries on the benefactors. I think this is the major problem with Africa and the Africans.
The desire to improve only comes up when someone needs to earn extra income and knows that he has nowhere to turn to but to himself. But in a situation where this person knows that he can get that extra from someone else through charity, he will relax. Trust me, that shop owner in the village who opens his shop irregularly will be forced to work harder if that his brother or sister that always restock his shop decides to cut him off.
Like I said, this is the problem with Africa. Africans have this mindset that they need help from the Global North before they can survive. This, beside bad governance, is the reason Africa is still where it is.
So, charity is good, really good, but that doesn’t mean that we should make it the only way of helping humanity. We need to be sure that the person we are helping truly deserves it. We need to be sure that the beneficiary of our generosity understands that he or she should find a source of earning because our help is only temporary. We have to be sure that our help is not having negative effects on the beneficiaries. And let us always remember that since it is a charity, it is not business. Hence, we should not expect anything in return. This way, the beneficiaries will not feel enslaved to us.
Remember the saying – give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. This is the greatest of all charities.