Rapaport Magazine
Sierra Leone

Development Difficulties: How Good Intentions Fail

By Martin Rapaport

RAPAPORT... The first rule of development is “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We must recognize that an American with lots of money can greatly hurt people in Sierra Leone by trying to help them. The simple example is that by giving people free fish, you encourage them to forget how to fish or repair nets.

Another example — real in our case:  Let’s send the kids of diggers to school. One year costs about $100. So you donate $100,000 and figure you can send a thousand kids to school. But what will happen to these kids next year? You have raised their expectations and then dumped them.

Okay. So we send 100 kids to ten years of school. Much better.

But the school system does not have capacity for these kids. There are no chairs, desks or books. As a result of your charity, the existing school system is downgraded and the children who have been bootstrapping through other programs will not get a good education. And we have not even started to talk about the fight over who gets to send which kids.

My point is that capacity and political issues will turn the best of intentions into nightmares unless local development experts like U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) or U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) are deeply involved in any project you propose. If you are a member of the trade who would like to help Sierra Leone, do not simply give money to people or organizations without knowing exactly what they will do with the money and assuring yourself that they are supervised by responsible development experts. Otherwise, your money may very well do more damage than good.

The Rapaport Group will be working with U.S. AID on a well-planned and -organized education program for children in Sierra Leone. We can also put you in touch with other worthy programs. Email: development@diamonds.net.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2007. To subscribe click here.

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Transparency and Sustainability
Jan 5, 2007 5:14PM    By Leslie Marsh

Your point is well taken. We at the Sabre Foundation only work with first-rate partners, our local NGO in Sierre Leone is the Sierra Leone Book Trust (SALBOT). We typically ship container-loads of educational materials worth of the order of $750,000 - and track the distribution and usage very carefully. Indeed, recently we even had an external auditor go out to Sierra Leone to closely exmine our partner's operations.

Sabre has had a 10 year relationship with USAID and other major grant-making foundations. We pride ourselves on the range and quality of the books we send. All our books are NEW. The schools, universities, libraries and individuals that benefit from Sabre’s Book Donation Program are not regarded as the recipients of aid for whom “any book is better than no book at all.” They are regarded instead as clients with limited resources.

If you would like to find out more about our work and perhaps discuss ways we can work together, please check out our website www.sabre.org or contact me, Leslie Marsh, at Leslie@sabre.org. Our programs offer a "big bang for the buck" as the saying goes and a great deal of positive newsworthiness is generated through our activities.

I hope that you or one of your representatives will get in touch.


Leslie Marsh.
Sabre Foundation
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