Handouts are not the answer

From the Eyes of a Daughter of the Village

by Jessica Lambiase, former World Neighbors Intern

Sporting the traditional Hausa attire I wore every day and holding one of my favorite neighbor boys.

“Amira! Amira!” the people in the village would call out as I walked by. In the town, most people called me “anasara” typically translated “westerner” with the understanding that such a title brings wealth and hand outs. But in the village, I was adopted as a bean picking, road walking, tuwo eating member of the community and everyone called me “Amira” – my African name.

From August to December 2010, the International Mission Board gave me the opportunity to serve alongside career missionaries and conduct field research for my Anthropology degree while living among the Hausa people of Southern Niger.

Niger is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world as well as one of the poorest. My village was without electricity or running water. I ate the nutrient low and undiversified staple foods. I walked miles on end to help my neighbors hand pick the crops from their field in the heat of the day with little water to sustain them. I witnessed the death of children to easily treatable diseases, and held extremely malnourished babies in my arms. In essence, I came face to face with the poverty, hunger, disease and environmental issues that World Neighbors is working so tirelessly to eliminate.

A resilient widow friend prepares a type of “tuwo” (food) called yaucuwa – a spicy plant that is steamed.
My desire to be a part of an organization such as World Neighbors came about not simply because of my exposure to these issues, but also because of my witness to the negative effects of non-governmental organizations responding to these issues with a short term fix. I witnessed the hysteria caused by monthly large scale handouts of money and food. I saw bitterness develop between friends if one received more than another. I witnessed the misuse of funds meant for food that were instead spent on a new outfit for an upcoming celebration or in some cases as the bride price for an additional wife.

These experiences further cemented in my mind the need for an integrated approach to the serious issues plaguing the developing world. After his own overseas experience in the Philippines during World War II, Dr. John L Peters - the late founder of World Neighbors - recognized that real needs should be met with real solutions. World Neighbors seeks to preserve the dignity of our neighbors throughout the world by partnering with the local community to find lasting solutions to the challenges they face.

It was a privilege to be adopted as a “daughter of the village” in the Hausa community of Niger. It has been a further privilege of mine to learn and grow as a member of the World Neighbors community. The effective and inspiring work of World Neighbors ensures that communities around the world, such as my small Hausa village, have the opportunity through education and training to break free from the bondage of dependency on wealthy “anasara” and instead emerge as self-sufficient thriving communities.