“Can Foreign Aid Help This Girl?” This was the question posed by Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times last weekend. His article told about a Haitian girl who attends school because of the efforts of a determined local woman. This community leader, Rea Dol, founded a school that now serves 835 poor youth in this besieged country. She was able to accomplish this feat by linking with a Canadian foundation and a U.S. high school. Similarly, other local citizens have mobilized to educate and bring literacy to their own – with the help of foreign donors. Kristof commented, “The school is an exemplary marriage of local leadership and foreign donors.”
Concessions out of the way, however, the fact is that there are many Rea Dols, citizens dedicated to helping their own neighbors, who depend on the “kindness of strangers” – small grassroots NGOs, visiting volunteers (many of whom are teachers travelling on their carefully saved bankrolls) and sometimes, passing tourists. These local activists, if you will, lift populations disregarded by their own governments. While such aid may be limited in scope and may not pass the rigors of sustainability sought by large funders, it delivers real, vital outcomes to those whom it touches.