Saturday, May 23, 2009

The problem with bleeding hearts...

If this blog has taught us nothing else I believe it is that relief and development is an amusing way to fill one's day, problematic to its crunchy-hard-currency-filled core, and so chock full of contradictions that describing it is like trying to nail jello.

And aid workers, as a group, get painted with the 'saint' brush a little more often than necessary when most of us are paid quite well and find our job difficult but also engaging, important and fulfilling. It's really not very sacrificial when you get right down to it.

This makes it difficult to come up against real need. Real need outside the bounds of the $10 million projects that donors pony up the cash for without blinking. Here in Juba there are a couple of women working with the government to work with some street kids - 45 street kids to be exact - who they have managed to get into school by day and a shifty government building at night. However, they can't feed them. And, by next week, they need $5,400 or the kids will take off to the streets again because they aren't getting fed. Can't say I'd blame them. I don't stay where I'm not fed. They need $27,000 to feed them for the next six months. That's $5 a kid for six months.

Herein lies the ridiculous dilemma, while I could easily get a million or two for a water project somewhere in Jonglei I have no idea how to come up with $33,000 so that these kids can keep eating for six months. And with all the NGOs and donors and UN in this town it really shouldn't be that difficult to get 45 of us 'mercenary' aid workers to give up 10 Sudanese Pounds a day for the next six month but - read previous article on cooks - I expect it will be like getting water from stones. I suspect that, when the rubber meets the road most of us think that we're doing our good by just existing here and shifting other peoples money around. It reminds me of the Indigo Girls song, Money Made You Mean:

So money made you mean and that's not how it's supposed to be.
You're ready to challenge and defend,
yeah, but for all the wrong reasons.

How much do we really need?
a question, if you have to ask
just means what it means-
the question that says everything.

Right and left it's all the same conspiracy
just cause you ask, doesn't make a difference to me.

You could keep it all or give it away
but where did it come from in the first place?
Robbing Peter to pay me, and I'll just be
giving it back to Peter to feel free.

Now you have to fix everything that's broke
cause it'll never leave you alone.
Reinvent the wheel, be the butt of a joke,
take the long road to charity.

Right or left it's all the same conspiracy
robbing Peter to pay Paul
or robbing Peter to pay me.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul
or robbing Peter to pay me.

Yeah it's just too hard, oh well, jump in.
Forget about the sharks and swim,
cause now you're one, now you're one.
You can't deny it anymore.

Right or left it's all the same conspiracy
robbing Peter to pay Paul
or robbing Peter to pay me.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul
or robbing Peter to pay me.

You can't deny it anymore.


Katiek patrianoceu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katiek patrianoceu said...

Kelsey, I can't get this story out of my mind. It's really kind of disturbing! One of the reasons that so far I've gone from volunteer-position to volunteer-position, is that I don't have to deal with the moral burden of a salary while "helping people". What will I do when I get a real-full-paying job?! I'd like to think I'd put out for a project like that, but I don't feel confident that that's true.

Now, here's a question. So you know how when Congress passess bills and people tag on mostly-unrelated actions as little budget items, either to hold the thing up or just to get funding for their little pet project? Is there any way you could fit something like this into the budget of one of your big projects?

Kelsey said...

Not a bad idea...actually! But I kinda want to see the do-gooder's squirm.

Katiek patrianoceu said...

don't worry you got me squirming

Lee said...

shit enough with the guilt trips! OK if you have 44 others I'm in.