Here is the most important thing I learned from reading "When Helping Hurts" and I believe is so helpful in understanding how to help (and not hurt) the poor. It was especially helpful in going to Chad.
When you want to help someone who is poor – you need to find out if they need relief, rehabilitation, or development. Failing to distinguish between them results in doing more harm than help.
RELIEF can be defined as the urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from a natural or man-made crisis. This is when you help because of an earthquake, a house fire, a car accident. Anything that is urgent and temporary. If there is a true crisis (urgent AND temporary) – then typically any and all help is good. This is to attempt to "stop the bleeding." (SPOILER ALERT… If you can get one thing – get this: Most help people give is relief help and because it isn't immediate or temporary, it hurts more than helps.)
REHABILITATION begins as soon as the bleeding stops; it seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions. The key issue here is working WITH those coming out of crisis – so that they are working on their own recovery. This would be helping those after a hurricane or drought, etc… (rebuilding homes etc…)
DEVELOPMENT is a process of ongoing change that needs to be made in someone's life situation to help them out of financial, spiritual and relational poverty. Development is not done to people or for people but with people. (Note: both rehabilitation and development would be "with" not "for" or "to")
It is crucial that we determine whether relief, rehabilitation, or development is the appropriate intervention. One of the biggest mistakes churches (and individuals) make – by far – is in applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.
Relief is "fun" – relief is "easy" – and relief is "short-term" and it is very "gratifying" – so most people and churches seek to alleviate poverty through relief, but relief is only called for immediately following a crisis and for a temporary need.
We've got to work to apply the appropriate response to the appropriate need.
Make sense? What do you think?