Your Money Can Help or Hurt
by Jen Hatmaker on September 11th, 2014

A couple of years ago, Brandon and I had an illuminating conversation with a local leader in Ethiopia. He led a church and accompanying nonprofit in his community, and a western group caught wind of his work. Eager to do good and chomping at the bit to do that good internationally (so sexy), they enacted a plan to visit his children’s home once a summer. Because they failed to listen, learn, and enter into a foreign culture with humility, not recognizing the local leader’s expertise, cultural intuitiveness, and authority, they visited his community once a summer with their pre-determined mission to paint the children’s home. Again.
So one day before they arrived each July, he instructed the children to go into the forest, gather dirt and debris, and rub the pristine walls down with muck so the Americans could paint and feel good about their “helpful yearly trip.”
We can do better than this.
We are doing better than this.
I am in Ethiopia, my favorite country on earth, with Help One Now. Dear reader, you must know by now that I would never put a mission or organization in front of you that I have not fully vetted and did not entirely believe in. I would never be that irresponsible. I love you too much for that and I steward my influence too greatly to throw something helter skelter against the wall and hope it sticks.
Listen to me, because not only do I plan to bully peer-pressure lead you and your resources toward a magnificent Ethiopian community, but I want you to know why HON is a worthy path from Point A to Point B. Because believe me, you could send your valuable dollars through a number of systems and it will end up in corrupt hands, in efficient structures, or in short-term initiatives that will run out of steam before ever reaching their objectives.
Help One Now operates out of three primary best practices:

1. Identifying, partnering with, and empowering high-capacity local leaders in vulnerable communities to lead their own countries out of extreme poverty. 

Baseline: If HON doesn’t have a top-drawer, highly educated, tested and proven local leader in an at-risk community, they won’t come. In Ethiopia, our in-country leader is Aschalew Abebe, and I have already run out of superlatives to describe his capacity. He has studied in three countries, did his graduate work in regional development planning and management, and absolutely understands how to preserve the most fragile families, develop them economically, and break the cycles of poverty. He is a marvel. I’ve watched him this week with my mouth hanging open. This is a trustworthy leader who loves his country, deeply understands its broken systems, and has developed a clear, sustainable path to family preservation. I can’t think of an international leader I’ve ever believed in more.

2. Care for orphaned and vulnerable children. 

Initially, HON’s mission was laser-focused on double-orphaned children (both parents deceased), but last year local Haitian leader Jean-Alix asked Chris to consider sponsoring children living in impoverished Drouin with their parents. When Chris explained that HON only focused on orphaned children, Jean-Alix said, “Oh. Okay. Then just wait one year and most of these children will be orphaned.” Thus, orphaned and vulnerable children now make up the mission of HON. Both worthy. In some cases, we respond to tragedy. In other cases, we help prevent the tragedy. Either way, children destined for orphanhood, poverty, and family disruption are empowered toward family, education, and economic sustainability. Cyclical chains are broken and the next generation is raised up to lead strong.

3.) Order and transform community. 

HON comes in with stabilizing resources (primarily through monthly sponsorships), which enable birth parents to regain financial footing without the crushing financial pressure simply feed and educate their children. With that noose off their necks plus the economic empowerment tools also provided through HON, families move from the brink of devastation not just to surviving but thriving. In a small town like Gunchire, for example, with 150 at-risk families stabilized and empowered, this literally has the power to turn the entire community around. Hundreds of children are now in school instead of working, hundreds of families are kept intact instead of devastated by disruption, and ten years from now, hundreds of young adults will contribute to the local economy and take their rightful place as the next generation of local leaders.

This is the right model, you guys. This is helping instead of hurting. This is giving proper honor, respect, and deference to local leaders who will aptly lead their own countries into stability. You know what we provide? Resources. It is what we have in spades. We are the wealthiest, most resourced nation on earth. Our dollars count. They are valuable in the right hands, and these are the right hands. This matters. Do not look on the scope of the world’s suffering and imagine you have no role to play, no dent to make, no help to offer.
Month after month, year after year, these are the tools that lift communities out of poverty. These are the tools that educate young minds and equip them to launch. As Jeffrey Sachs, global economist and author of The End of Poverty says, “People stuck in extreme poverty lack the resources necessary to grab the bottom rung of empowerment. Mind you, once they grab hold of that bottom rung, they will climb…because they are smart, ambitious, and motivated.”
You know what we are? That elusive boost to the bottom rung.
We give the impossible lift to the ladder of health, education, and economic stability, and I am telling you, these good people will climb. They don’t love their families any less; they don’t lack work ethic, resourcefulness, drive. $42 a month? Doesn’t seem like much to us. But it is the boost.
They will climb.
In Gunchire, we are exclusively empowering families who have not yet disrupted. They are so close though. HON went door-to-door and identified the 150 most vulnerable families in the community: widowed, HIV+, impaired, ostracized, single-parents, special-needs children, abused, abandoned. These families have endured more than most of us can even comprehend.
Yet they are still standing, clinging together, hanging on by a thread. Survivors, fighters, these families.
Let’s keep them together and help them not just survive but thrive.
I am going to tell you some stories tomorrow. Inspiring, awesome stories about women and children who dug deep, refused to give up, stuck together with nothing but grit and resolve. HON was the glue. You are going to be so proud of them all.

We have 150 families in line for this glue that binds; the education, nutrition, health care, economic empowerment, financial counseling, recovery resources. HON provides all this. We get to be a part: $42 a month. Honestly? It is too easy. Plus, you get some goodies we put together to say THANK YOU. I’m going to talk more about this tomorrow, but for those of you already convinced, go to www.helponenow/lovehope and sponsor. Every face you see still lives at home. Let’s keep it that way.
This is long-term work, yall. This is coming alongside a struggling community for months, years, and walking them toward stability bit by bit. That is exactly why a monthly sponsorship makes sense. This is not a one-shot fix. It is a privileged community saying, “We are here. This year, next year, the year after that…all the way until you’re regained your footing and preserved your legacy.”
Please come back tomorrow. I want to introduce you to Birkanesh and Seada Nesa and Siraj. You can’t not know about them.

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