Should Charity Begin in America’s Own Backyard?

In January of 2010 when Haiti was hit by a tragic earthquake, masses of people supported campaigns from the Red Cross to Oprah by giving money to aid in Haiti’s recovery.Initially the group ,Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF) better known in English speaking countries as Doctors without Borders was forced to work in horrific conditions, using Vodka as a sterile liquid to perform surgery on countless victims. Funds did reach this group and millions were spent on erecting hospitals and clinics to serve the masses.

But, months later, some of the doctors within the group believed that nothing internally was being done to help Haiti take back responsibility for rebuilding its own country saying all the rebuilding had been done by Médecins Sans Frontièrs, the group that had already been in Haiti trying to sustain medical services for nearly twenty years. I wonder why they didn’t already have enough sterile supplies there if they had been there that long?

Reports from various news agencies have criticized the lack of organization in distributing the billions of dollars sent to Haiti from country’s pledging aid to the pennies collected in elementary classrooms. There are many who accuse agencies like the Red Cross of holding funds in Haiti because of no  

Haiti Relief

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

clear jurisdiction about how those funds should be distributed. One report indicated whenever medicine first arrived in Haiti; it was confiscated by locals and sold. MSF has been in Haiti with the best of humanitarian efforts but reports say MSF has enough money to remain there for decades but funds earmarked for this agency as well as other specific agencies often remain unspent while other causes and even other nations remain in dire need. And months later despite the enormous contributions, many Haitians are still starving and without housing.

Flag of the Red Cross

Image via Wikipedia

While Christians should feel compelled to extend a hand to individuals in need the question of whether we should spend our donations in our own backyard remains a critical one. There are an estimated 19 million Americans or 6.3% of our country’s population living in extreme poverty. Hunger statistics have dramatically increased in America in the last three years. While there is no comparison in standard of living to a third world nation, one still wonders if the billions in aid given to countries that have no means to adequately distribute or take responsibility for development of a stronger economic environment might have been at least partially better spent on improving conditions for the extremely poor of America; faces most Americans either don’t believe or don’t want to acknowledge can exist in a country like the United States. Our country has fallen on some critical economic times and yet while our nation’s unemployment has risen to staggering levels, we continue to support foreign aid in the billions.

As a Christian I believe we should be offering assistance to those less fortunate, but I wonder if we need not start in the places that we pass daily. In towns like Detroit where factories have closed long ago and the population is increasingly becoming desperate for jobs and a chance to rise above a poverty level or in Appalachia where the scenic beauty 


of the mountains is in stark contrast to the extreme poverty in trailer parks or run down homes without heat whose children eat meals only when they are attending


Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

A excellent list of how to donate in crisis comes from the Good Intentions are not Enough website, but the questions of how to address our role in assistance as Christians remain.

Take the survey and I’d like to hear your opinion. If people in third world nations cannot help themselves we must help, but where do we draw the line between assisting them in developing their country and enabling them to stay dependent on foreign aid?

About Kathy Brunner

Author, Speaker, Fire-starter. Believe anyone can make their passion happen and create a life On Purpose and With Intention. I can show you how to re-invent your life to go from Burned Out to Fired Up. Are you ready to REALLY live your dreams?
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3 Responses to Should Charity Begin in America’s Own Backyard?

  1. You make some excellent points here. Most Americans have no idea how funds are managed here or abroad. Charitable fund distribution needs to be left in the hands Charitable Institutions and not in the hands of the government. The biggest problem we have here in the USA is that the average American thinks that the government is taking care of the poor and extremely poor. Unfortunately the government system is broken and rampant with fraud. I know of many who get help from government agencies who should not be getting the help and there are too many who have a dire need who cannot get the help they desperately need. There should not be such a high rate of poverty in this country. Churches and other Christian organizations should concentrate on eradicating poverty her in the USA. I have be lead to believe that charitable donations here have declined. I know that in my ministry that this is true. The public is afraid of the economic situation getting worse. Money is tight. Many have lost their jobs and their homes.

    I believe that Christians should realize that withholding donations is the absolute reverse of what they should be doing. The best time to give is when you are in need. We show our trust in God when we give, honoring His Word, even when it hurts. Remember Jesus’ comment about the old lady who gave two mites at the Temple offering.

    Mark 12:41-43 (Amplified Bible)

    41And He sat down opposite the treasury and saw how the crowd was casting money into the treasury. Many rich [people] were throwing in large sums.

    42And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites [the smallest of coins], which together make half of a cent.

    43And He called His disciples [to Him] and said to them, Truly and surely I tell you, this widow, [she who is] poverty-stricken, has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments. There is a price we pay for charity that is often not measured monetarily but in conscience and responsibility. We need to be certain what we are being charitable for or about meet the values we represent across the board.

  2. One of the biggest problems that I see is the abundance of sociopaths (who are really concerned only with their own well being and gain) engaged in both government and private sector ‘charities.’ Organizations can be classified and certified to be ‘charitable’ if 20% of funds collected actually go to the object of the charity.

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