Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Third World or Americans? Who Deserves U.S. Aid More?

Third World or Americans? Who Deserves U.S. Aid More?

Since I was recently in Sri Lanka, I will use it as an example.

Sri Lanka lost 38,000 people in the 2004 tsunami. They’ve lost 70,000 people to a 17-year civil war that just ended in 2009, with another 500,000 people without homes because of the conflict. I did the math, and this is fully one-third of the entire population either dead or homeless because of war or natural disaster in the last 20 years.

Bring it home—what if one out of every three people in the US was dead or homeless? On top of all this human loss, their economy is in shambles. The average annual income in Sri Lanka is $2,290. And you want them to help the richest nation in the world?

I think an analogy may help.

Denying aid to Sri Lanka because they aren’t helping us first is like telling the victims of the Joplin tornado to manicure the White House lawn before we will help them rebuild. Requiring a third world country to help a first world country is like telling a child sex slave that we won’t rescue them until they send Donald Trump $100.

We are one of the richest nations in the world. We don’t need help. We need to be more responsible with our resources. We need to share.

We need to help people like the ones I visisted in Sri Lanka and Bolivia. They aren’t lazy, and they aren’t stupid. They are some of the most ingenious creative people I’ve ever met. They are like MacGyver, making something out of practically nothing, like the guys who climb palm trees for coconut nectar. But this isn’t a television show. This is for real.

And the thing is they need the basics we take for granted: things like safe drinking water, shoes, mosquito repellant, soap, toothpaste, trash pick-up, sewers, vaccines. They need hope that the way things are isn’t the way things have to stay. The kind of poverty experienced in the third world is a hopeless fatalistic poverty. They have no safety nets. Without someone extending a hand to help them up, they have no way of bettering themselves. None. This poverty is in a completely different category than the poverty in the U.S., where with a lot of hard work (and some help), you can get yourself out.

Now I’m not saying that we in America have it all. We have our own special kind of poverty: a poverty of generosity, of compassion, of connection and community. These are things Sri Lankans are rich with. So in that sense, supporting third world development work is a give and take. We give our financial resources, and they teach us how to be good global neighbors.