Charity work vs. development work in Nicaragua

Charity is giving to the needy. Nicaragua has much less than the western world and is very needy. Many people from North America come to Nicaragua to give.

Development work is giving discounts to the needy. Nicaragua has a lot of unemployed, smart people who are willing to work for what they need if there was only some organization or group who could give them a boost.

Here is an example of what I mean. We are working on building a school in a rural, very poor community outside of Tipitapa. Our methodology is we buy the materials and supply the foreman and the community pitches in unpaid labor. On occasion we bring down work groups from schools from the United States to help. This model has worked for 24 years within our organization. This specific community has been a bit hesitant to help out because we pay the community members in infrastructure instead of with cash. If they come work, they will earn a school for their kids.

Two days ago another organization visited the community to hand out clothes, dishes, flashlights and other useful stuff to the community for free. EVERYBODY showed up to grab what they could. The lady who helps coordinate our work in the community was a bit miffed and asked her neighbors why they were all so fast to grab handouts but reluctant to help build the school. This upset a few of the other ladies who I can only assume have had a long-standing beef with the community coordinator. One of them attacked her, scratching up her face, pulling her hair and leaving her with a shiner on her right eye.

Sidenote: Her husband refused to let her go to the police because of repercussions within the community. After all, the police will come and go but these neighbors have to live together.

Whose to blame? Well, the community members, of course. The charity organization gave out odds n ends that the community could use. Needy people being helped is a good thing. However the community coordinator asked a valid question when she asked why were her neighbors reluctant to help build the school for their own kids. Charity tends to foster an attitude that, 1. doesn’t appreciate the things received since they were given instead of earned and 2. prefers to wait for more charity instead of work.

More and more we are seeing non-profit organizations working less with charity and more with development. Personally I think that is a good thing. Our community coordinator thinks so too.

working in development in nicaragua