In an interview with Forbes‘ Jerry Bower, Peter Greer, president and CEO of the the Hope International, explains why church foreign aid programs often hurts those its meant to help:
Greer: There’s an entrepreneur named Jeff Rutt, and after the fall of the Soviet Union he had a desire to go over with his church and help. So, initially they did what people so often do, which is see that people don’t have food and then send over food, and see that people don’t have adequate clothes for the harsh Ukrainian winter and then go in their closets and send things over. And all of that is good, all of that is appropriate, all of that is needed in response to a crisis. But as Jeff did that, after a couple of years it was the team in Ukraine that eventually said—“
Bower: “Your help is hurting.”
Peter: “Exactly, yeah. And anyone that’s been involved in philanthropy eventually comes to that point. When you try to help, you try to give things, you start to have the consequences. There’s an author Bob Lupton, who really nails it when he says that when he gave something the first time, there was gratitude; and when he gave something a second time to that same community, there was anticipation; the third time, there was expectation; the fourth time, there was entitlement; and the fifth time, there was dependency. That is what we’ve all experienced when we’ve wanted to do good. Something changes the more we just give hand-out after hand-out. Something that is designed to be a help actually causes harm. And so, microfinance turns that model on its head, and instead of going in and just saying, “We’ve got a lot of things you don’t, so we’re just going to give it to you,” it turns that model completely on its head and says, “Every single individual is created by a God who loves them, and that means there is worth and there is dignity and there is ability.” So we go in and say not, “What don’t you have,” but, “What do you have? What are you dreams for your kids? What are your aspirations? What are your hopes? What is it that is in your hand to do?” That changes everything.