I’ve recently come under some criticism for my recent Indiegogo campaign, Hoops for Haiti. It seems a perfectly legitimate argument: why spend money and devote efforts elsewhere when there are people in our own country hurting and wanting, especially this time of year? It’s a criticism I do not take offense to, however I remain steadfast in my decision.
For one, the group I’m working with, The Ozark Water Projects is a wonderful organization I feel proud to be a part of. The Ozark Water Project works with institutions in my local state of Arkansas as well as some of the surrounding states and organizes shoe drives. They collect and organize as many used shoes as they can and then ship the shoes off to distributors in developing countries. The distributors buy the shoes for $0.35/pound and then in turn are able to sell the shoes at very affordable prices to the local residents. They money raised from the shoe sales then are used to purchase equipment to install clean water systems in areas that need it.
Before the shoes are shipped off The Ozark Water Project does, in fact, help the local communities they work with. The work they do locally, however, is not advertised. The number one reason being discretion for the people they help. As you might understand, some people may feel embarrassed for accepting a hand-out, or so they may perceive, and so as to save those individuals the embarrassment, The Ozark Water Project does everything very discreetly. In an effort to preserve that confidentiality, I will not describe specifically what they do, but if you are interested and wish to contact me privately I will be happy to disclose a little more information. email@example.com.
Second, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if a community in the United States were to demonstrate a need for clean water, or access to it, The Ozark Water Projects would certainly help. The fact of the matter is however unfortunate ones circumstances are in the United States, they probably have access to clean water. The access may be inconvenient, but the access is there. So is not the case in other parts of the world. Of the 3.4 million deaths worldwide that result from water related diseases (or lack of water) every year, 99% of them occur in developing countries.*
To illustrate, I will expound upon the way that poverty is defined. For the sake of brevity, I will introduce the most common two: absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is measured universally by the same standard which is lacking the means to access basic needs for survival such as adequate shelter, food, and water. To put a number to this definition, absolute poverty means living on $1.25 or less each day.** Relative poverty defines poverty in the context of the economic standards of a society. For example, a family may seem “poor” if they weren’t able to afford any Christmas presents for their children compared to other American families, but that family may still meet the basic threshold that is needed for survival. I don’t want to undermine the prevalence of poverty in the United States, I just want to point out that they are considered poor when compared to the high standard of living we have in America. So it’s not that The Ozark Water Projects or myself are unwilling to help the unfortunate in our own country, is just that other places demonstrate a more immediate need.
The Ozark Water Project addresses one of the deficits of those in absolute poverty.
Although it’s only one focus, giving people access to clean water has so many more benefits. Clean drinking water not only cuts down the number of diseases contracted from ingesting contaminated water but also aids in better hygiene and sanitation, food security, access to education, and overall improved quality of life. For example, close proximity to water gives millions of women and girls the opportunity to attend school as opposed to spending the day traveling long distances to gather water. I’m only scratching the surface, of course, but I just wanted to make the point how one improvement can make such a difference in so many things we take for granted here in the United States. For now, I’ll leave it at that, but if you’re interested in knowing more of the benefits of water, The Ozark Water Project outlines them very well on their website here and the World Health Organization has some great statistics as well.
Finally, I firmly believe a human life is a human life. Who is to say that a persons placement on this globe gives them more or less warranty for help? Following the same logic, human suffering is human suffering and I do not mean to underscore the suffering of millions of American who do want. That is not my aim. But when I think about issues on a global scale, I tend to take a more utilitarian perspective. I try to think what effort and expenditure will do the most good? When I consider what a donation can do for those in absolute poverty, where lives are on the line, versus what that same donation can do for those living in relative poverty, I tend to see one come into focus. For the reasons I listed very briefly above, I feel very confident in my decision to help the people in Haiti.
On a more positive note, I want to thank those donors who have already supported my campaign. Thank you so much!