Often I have said that I receive when I give. For me volunteering is a great way of giving of myself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I prefer giving of myself to donating money, although it would be fair to say that volunteering seldom is cost free.
Money pours into The Gambia, but to what effect? I felt anger seeing the staff of major charities and NGOs driving around in gas guzzling 4x4s bearing personalised plates and living in secure, quality accommodation paid from ‘administrative expenses’. It seemed to me that too many projects are unsustainable, or major overseas donors benefit to the detriment of locals. I could wax lyrical about the iniquities of IMF interventions.
At the other end of the scale, it seems that almost every frequent visitor has at least one project they support, from paying school fees for a local child to bringing in container loads of books, bicycles and clothing. And here the benefits of giving seem most tangible, making a difference to individuals lives.
There are some hare-brained schemes, like the Dutch couple fund-raising to build a swimming pool where local children can be taught to swim in an attempt to avoid the frequent drownings in the rip tides and undertow of the Atlantic rollers. And there are tough schemes, like Samaritana who are attempting to take prostitutes of the beaches and teach them skills to earn less dangerously, but turning a trick or two pays infinitely better. The ex sex workers output needs to be sold in the USA or Europe at market rates.
In reflecting on the art of my giving, I suppose I am attached to an outcome – that giving makes a difference, but maybe this is a salve for my conscience and sensibilities? Perhaps what is important is the act itself, no strings attached.