DISCLAIMER: no offense is intended
Earlier this year one of our best friends in the US asked me if I knew of any good charities in Peru. He had set aside some cash and was looking for a good way to make a donation. Patricia and I have talked about charitable giving in Peru, and since the holidays will be upon us in a few months I decided to write this post as food for thought, so to speak.
If you want to make a charitable contribution in Peru, or a corporate charitable event, what do you do?
In a nutshell, after spending time in Peru I no longer believe in the US/European concept of charitable giving. Big charities, churches and NGOs may have good intentions but often appear culturally disconnected at best or self-serving at worst, with charitable giving an extension of foreign policy or corporate strategy.
Look beyond the idea of selecting a better charity. While writing a check to your favorite charity is certainly a very kind and honorable thing to do, sealing that envelope as you’re sitting safely behind a desk only reinforces ideas that you are already comfortable with: that the big white man can make everything all better for little brown people, that countries like Peru need the US to improve their way of life.
Only, it hasn’t worked in the past 500 years or so and it won’t work any time soon.
No offense, Peruvians LOVE gringos, but we gringos typically go down to Latin America with preconceived notions of how our money, influence and business will make life better, which is practically akin to the Prime Minister of India coming down to Texas and “saving” all the ranchers there by educating them on how sacreligious it is to eat steak.
If you’re already convinced that Latin America needs the US, you will by definition be insensitive to its real needs.
I experienced a great way to do charitable giving in Peru during Christmas of 2007: the office where Patricia worked took a trip to a poor, rural village and handed out Christmas presents to the kids there, served hot cocoa and Panettone (pictures below). In my opinion, the only way to do charitable giving in Peru is to fly down to Peru and do something nice yourself. Take a bus to a small rural town, hand out some toys to kids who have none, or build a library or a medical clinic if you have the resources. You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when your kids open their presents on Christmas day? A US company or philanthropist can easily fly down to Peru and get the same warm fuzzy feeling 100 times over 2 weeks before Christmas, then go home and do it all over again.
Don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself.