I don't know how or where to begin this post. I don't know whether to be cynical, angry, funny (laughing so I don't cry), compassionate, or just plain sad at the situation. Realistically, I am feeling all of these.
My school received a shipment of TOMS Shoes this week. For those of you unfamiliar with their mission, please click on the link to read about it.
For those of you who sport the canvas flats in efforts to aid those "less fortunate" than you, read carefully and consider both sides of this story.
For those of you cautious about international aid, please offer more insight.
I read this article a few weeks ago, and it only validated my current thoughts on international aid.
There are definitely children in my school who probably need new school shoes and genuinely cannot afford it. Shoes are a necessary wardrobe piece in Jamaica (unlike some parts of other developing nations). Fortunately, I have a principal who is able to determine which students are the most needy, and she also understands the value of aid. She has done well to distribute the donated shoes appropriately.
Unfortunately, many of the shoes donated were missing the other half of the pair. I cannot blame TOMS for the failure, assuming that they did not donate only half-pairs. I really wonder what the missing parts of the story are. I wonder if losing the other halves were genuine accidents. I wonder what we're going to do with only the right or only the left shoe of multiple pairs. I wonder what the children think as they either receive a complete pair with joy or look longingly at an incomplete pair.
I do not think international aid is bad. I have seen it do good, and it can do good. But I do think that if it's not done carefully and intentionally--with a healthy dose of accountability--it's a slippery slope to a big mess.
I beg you to think more carefully of your international aid contributions, whether you're aiding directly or indirectly.