Representatives of an NGO came by yesterday, for a couple hours total. They gave out presents, made promises, took pictures. I cringed. Just now I had 3 kids (if you can call them kids; they were probably 22 or 23) come and knock on my house. They didn't even greet me (super bad manners in Uganda), and asked me for bread. Or eggs. Or sweets. Or a shirt. No? What about school fees, then? "You give me school fees." Unfortunately, I had to act like I was disappointed in them for asking me such things. In the local language, I gave a detailed explanation of how it makes me feel, and the bad manners they are having. Afterwards I shooed them and slammed my door, sending them scampering away, falling over each other in the battle of who could get the furthest away.
As pissed off as this gets me, it is the good version of this scenario. At least, in this instance, somebody is here to counteract the pretentiousness of a few.
Playing bad cop sucks. You think I don't want to give them food or fees for their education? Of course I do. But I respect this village and the children that make it up (because over 50% are actually children, by the official statistics) too much; I know that if they are going to be successful in the country they call home, it will have to start with a belief that its up to them. It will then have to follow with a feeling of worth large enough to believe they CAN do it. People come here and see kids that need help, instead of believing in them to help themselves. People come here and give this air like they're doing such amazing things. What they're really doing is instilling dependency, turning problems that they see into permanent conditions.
Every time someone comes here with the intention of making themselves feel good with pictures and a few handouts, my legs get cut out from beneath me. If you want to provide support, find somebody that actually knows what they're talking about; preferably someone who's been here longer than a 3 month tourist. If you don't, or if you can't find that, then help the country by NOT providing support. Finally, whatever your goal is, if you are sending money or materials over to Uganda without proper research, without ensured accountability, without a person on the ground who understands what is going on, without concentration on sustainability and ENDING THE NEED for what you're supporting, then it is you who is doing so much to ruin this country. Stop. We--the people who know better--are not impressed.
This is one of my posts from 11 months ago. It is perhaps the less jaded version of what I just wrote.