Let me introduce you to this young mother I met in Galachipa, Bangladesh. This photo was taken just after Cyclone Aila – you can see that part of her house’s wall is missing. Trust me, I don’t bring this up as a downer.
After I met her, I explained to her what I was doing: that I’m not a charity official or employee – I’m just a guy. And, with my camera and camcorder, she could send a message to all my friends around the world.
I asked her: what does she want people outside of Bangladesh to know? What single message would be the most important to send? After I heard what she had to say, I knew I could never release the message.
She made a message with the names of specific individuals and groups who she felt were mishandling people’s donations. She urged people not to donate through these methods – because it would never reach her.
While I agree with much of what he said, this one passage sticks out the most:
I want to just remind folks of the risks of observer bias- that being that when you rock up to Village X with a notepad, or a camera, your very presence affects the answers that will be given. Community members may lack resources, and even education, but they’re not stupid. When a donor representative like myself or Shawn asks them a question, they will always give the answer that makes it most likely that they will receive more funds. If they turn around and complain about the quality of aid, they know there’s a risk that the donors in question may write off the village as a failed project and move on. Big smiles and thank-yous are far more likely to make a donor feel good and give more- and they know this.
I mention this because, for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Click the jump to find out why.