World-Wide Impact of Hurtful Helping (When Helping Hurts – part 9)

When Helping Hurts isn't just a reality in the United States. It is a reality around the world. Three examples come to mind:

  1. The huge Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, is believed to be the largest slum in Africa. Development workers commonly refer to Kibera as "scorched earth," because decades of well-meaning outside organizations have made it nearly impossible to do long-lasting development work there. They come in with "relief" help when rehabilitation and development help is needed. And one of the biggest differences between relief and rehab or development is that both rehab and development is requiring those you are helping to work with you. You do not do things for them or to them, but with them. But if you are given handouts long enough – you begin to have an entitlement mindset (think of the worst welfare situations in the US). So good ministries come into the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, offering rehab and development help – and they are turned down by those needing that help because there are so many other NGOs willing to just give them direct handouts.
  2. Where I was recently in Chad, Africa, there are 18,000 refugees just outside of Goz Beida. Pretty much everything is done for them. They lack motivation to move out of the refugee camp into a community because in the refugee camp – they have no expectations and are continued to be given relief help, when it is time to move them toward rehabilitation.
  3. Even some of the villages in eastern Chad have had enough NGOs come into town giving handouts that when World Concern approaches them about development (and therefore requires a lot of their participation) – they have been turned down or at least questioned as to why they won't just give them things "like other NGOs." 

Here is a big principle of helping without hurting: Do not do things for people that they can do for themselves.  

Memorize this, recite it under your breath all day long, and wear it like a garland around your neck. Every time you are engaged in poverty-alleviation ministry, keep this at the forefront of your mind, for it can keep you from doing all sorts of harm. (When Helping Hurts, p. 115)

Perhaps that is worthy to consider when someone approaches you begging. Is there a place that can provide them rehabilitation and development? If so – perhaps one of the worst things you can do is provide relief. Just a thought. You have to work that through and pray about it for yourself.


  1. Thank you for this blog series. God used the beginning of it to prepare my heart for what He wanted to show me at the Global Missions Health Conference last weekend (where Brian Fikkert was one of the main speakers). Now I’m praying about what it looks like as I work with the community outreach ministries at the church we’re going to here in Fort Worth where there’s more relief than rehabilitation and development going on currently.

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