In response to an article in the Reuters News alert dated 20 July, 2010 at http://www.alertnet.org/db/blogs/56091/2010/06/20-134522-1.htm .
One of the activities I always enjoyed in the Navy was the opportunity to visit ports around the world and to participate in volunteer aid ventures like fixing up a school or helping build a playground for kids in impoverished areas, or even helping orphans.
It has become clear to me however that what was once an individual effort from well meaning crews on a visiting ship to grateful recipients has become industry that is not only unappreciated but even counterproductive.
The attempt to "win hearts and minds" seems pointless if the people it is intended to help are resentful and even hostile to the efforts made. Since the people conducting aid operations (people like U.S. military) can't remain permanently to reinforce the commitment of bettering a situation in a given area, when they leave, there may be feelings of resentment or abandonment at the perceived lack of commitment. In my opinion, foreign aid rarely has the intended effect as it is seen as a "pay-off" or an attempt to curry favor- insincere at best, an insult at worst.
When we sailors went to do a project, it was done though local contacts made by our chaplains with local leaders who had specific needs and wants and who were appreciative and who understood that this activity was being done by men who were volunteering their time and efforts. It was understood that these men could be doing something else with their time but were willing to forgo well earned time off and the "usual and customary" activities of sailors on liberty, to help them. Going where we aren't wanted giving people "help" they don't want, need or appreciate is a complete waste of time and resources we as a nation can no longer afford anyway. What I did with my shipmates was always appreciated and when we arrived, did the work then left, we always felt we had done something meaningful and worthwhile; the work as meaningful to us and the community. Going into a situation with the specific, engineered purposes of winning "hearts and minds" is a very bad idea.... If the Kenyans need help with something, let them do the work themselves and if help is needed from us, let them know that it will be rendered if they ask for it. The same goes with supplying money and materials. If they want it, let them make the request.
Otherwise, butt out.
We can't really afford to be rebuilding latrines in Africa anyway. America is broke and we need to worry about our own situations and circumstances here at home.