Why I don’t like aid

To give aid or not to? Now, that is the question.

Poverty during my childhood

The issue of giving and receiving aid is a very sensitive one for some people. My family hit a rough patch when I was about 12 and that lasted for a couple of years. I would go without food the whole day, walk about eight kilometers round trip to school. The thing that kept me going was that my parents told me (and my siblings, of course) that I had to work hard at school, go to college, get a job and then I would be able to have enough food. There was no aid handed to us by some sponsors from the US, UK or anywhere else. We did not have or need support from outside in order for us to be motivated enough to go to school.

Fast forward many many years later, we suddenly need motivation from sponsors/donors in order for our children to go to school. Why am I so against aid? My answer is a bit long, but bear with me.

Flo’s mom

I was visiting my parents several years ago after being away for a year when I heard some loud voices outside early in the morning.

Flo’s mom: Hey, you are not yet ready? Today is the day!
Sharon’s mom: Give me a few minutes and I will be done.
Flo’s mom: Hurry up! We will be late.
Sharon’s mom (a few minutes later): OK, I am ready. Let’s go!

I would not have paid attention to the conversation except for the fact Flo’s mom said “hurry up”. This is a woman who never does anything that requires expending energy. In short, Flo’s mom is a very lazy woman – something she was well known for in the neighborhood.

Why I do not like aid
Since my interest had been aroused, I asked my mother where these two women were rushing to. She said that poor parents whose children attended school regularly were given mealie meal (corn meal), cooking oil and beans enough to last for about a month. I had heard about this ‘phenomenon’ before, but had never met anyone who was actually paid (that’s how I see it) for having their kids go to school.

My mother also told me that she had been voted onto the school board of the local community school even though she did not have children there. She had declined the position but the parish priest and other board members finally convinced her to take the position. One of the board’s duties was to go through class registers every month, see which children consistently attended school and ‘paid’ their families with dry food stuffs. The board had noticed that some children did not attend school except for the last few days before rations were given out. These children were not given anything and their parents had protested – very loudly, I must add. The board members were not happy with this because the parents knew the rules. The board also knew the families personally and knew that the children had no real reasons for not going to school.

So, to me giving aid in order for children to go to school, something their parents should ensure they do anyway, is encouraging laziness and a sense of entitlement as seen from my mother’s experience. The parents, Flo’s mom in particular, get encouraged not to work hard because they know that their food supply is guaranteed through their children. Who knows, maybe some people may decide to have children just to receive free food as well. I (and countless other children) never needed aid to motivate us to go to school, so why should generations after me need to be paid to go to school? What will happen when this aid dries up? Will children stop going to school?

The above reasons have made me not like aid for the most part. Why should someone have to pay me for improving my own life? Why should some old lady somewhere in Europe knit her fingers off, sell the product and send my childred food every month (figuratively speaking) while I wake up at 10.00 am, eat the food she sent, chat with my neighbors and relax the whole day, go to bed at night and wake up to the same thing tomorrow? Basically, that is what Flo’s mom has done for years. Her laziness is being encouraged and I do not like that at all. I know I do not receive aid, but it just makes me mad to see what some Zambians have been reduced to – glorified beggars. I am mad! They are giving the rest of the Zambians a bad name. We are not too poor to try and fend for ourselves!

Suggested Solutions
I know some families need all the help they can get, especially with the scourge of HIV/AIDS, but the majority of them do not. What is the solution, then?

I believe that one of the solutions is education for the parents. They have to be taught that it is for their children and families’ benefits that the kids go to school. My parents told me constantly in different ways why I needed to go to school – e.g. I could travel the world (and I have done quite a bit of that) and I could have all the food I wanted. It would also help if successful people gave talks at schools about the benefits of hard work so that the children see the results of hard work.

I hope that this dependency syndrome will one day stop in Zambia and people will be like they were years ago – strong people who depended on themselves and not handouts.


22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anotherday2paradise
    Nov 14, 2015 @ 22:38:41

    I just read this and totally agree with you.


  2. Lori D
    Feb 02, 2015 @ 02:42:46



  3. The Sicilian Housewife
    Jan 08, 2015 @ 15:06:56

    I am very interested that you see the issue of aid causing laziness and lack of motivation in Africa, too.

    I wrote a very passionate piece about this on my blog a few weeks ago; in Sicily, the EU gives lots of money to keep totally incompetent businesses going when they should just go bust, and gives money to corrupt politicians, which they just steal. If the aid all stopped these lazy people would live in poverty, which they deserve, and their jobs would become available to people who really want to work hard.

    Do you think there is any way to help a country develop economically, without just ending up with this problem?
    I am struggling with this in Sicily; I cannot see any solution other than to cut off all aid, and wait for people to sort themselves out. I wish there was a better (and faster) way, but I think this is just human nature.

    BTW this is my article, if you are interested:


    • Zambian Lady
      Jan 10, 2015 @ 14:35:41

      Hi. I read your article and it is quite, especially about the non-working windmills.

      In my opinion, politicians are not the best channels for aid. The number of failed projects and politicians who personally profited from them cemented my opinion that there should be another way of running projects. From the little I have observed, aid works better when recipients are part of the design, implementation and maintenance of a project. When recipients are involved they take ownership and responsibility of a project as I mentioned in my earlier post. I think aid should be channeled differently and for sustainable projects not where people get ‘hooked’ to it. However, this would need a lot of education for the populace and the politicians should buy into the new of dealing with aid. Can this be done? I think so, but it would take a lot of hard work.


  4. Conor Bofin
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 21:03:30

    Very well written Zambian Lady.


  5. Trackback: I chased my homeless friend from my house | Zambian Lady
  6. Gallivanta
    Dec 10, 2014 @ 03:47:16

    Aid dependency is a difficult and serious issue, that’s for sure.


  7. kay ~ lifestylevoices.com
    Dec 04, 2014 @ 14:05:15

    I love your convictions. You take such a no-nonsense approach to life. It’s so refreshing. I look so forward to reading more! I think we’ve all known some “Flo’s moms” at some point in time. It’s a shame that children pay for their parents’ shortcomings.


  8. earthriderjudyberman
    Nov 26, 2014 @ 00:21:02

    Your experience growing up sounds a lot like my Mom’s family. They went thru hard times during the Great Depression in the United States during the 1930s. Like your family, hers was too proud to ask for or accept a handout. There might be times when it’s needed. When it’s not, and people abuse the situation, that is just wrong.


  9. Naomi
    Nov 25, 2014 @ 10:36:38

    Interesting perspective. I think when most people give to charities they think they are giving to people who have no other options due to drought or disease or desperate poverty. I’ve worried about whether money given actually gets to recipients, but I’ve never thought about entitlement.

    What would you suggest for those who do want to help others? Focus on the area where we live (every country has people who need help, though sometimes not monetary) and not send money at all to African countries? What do you think of programs that fund sending a goat or chickens to people?


    • zambianlady
      Nov 27, 2014 @ 20:38:48

      I am not saying one should only focus on their backyard, but I would advise that we start there and then spread out. The assistance can be in any form because like you said, sometimes people do not necessarily need monetary assistance.

      I believe that there are charities which use most of the donations for programs agreed and not on high overheads. Personally, I prefer organizations that not only give aid but first consult communities on what they need in order to have more impact and support from the communities. It should be noted though, that some forms of aid, e.g. towards disasters, do not need consultations per se, but immediate action. It is also good to research organizations before making donations. I know of NGOs that give aid but I am not familiar with them, so I can not respond objectively. It should be noted that I am not saying that giving aid is wrong or should be stopped, just that we should be more aware.


  10. KimRidge Farmer
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 04:12:19

    Two years ago, I returned back home from a long photographic journey abroad. I learned a lot during my travels. One of my experiences was work in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. I spent three years working there. While I was working in Peru, I gave a serious thought of combining business and pleasure and develop a hotel at one of their glamorous Andean locations. “Glamorous” relates only to the mountains and the surrounding nature, which attracts a lot of foreign tourism. The life of the native Kechua people is far from being glamorous. They live on dirt floors of poor adobe huts with very little food, clothes, and no sanitation. From my perspective, they seemed to be very unfortunate people.

    When I was working on my hotel project (which did not happen because I changed my mind), I met an immigrant from Argentina who owns a small hotel in Peru. I asked him about a potential of opening a gift store where my hotel patrons would buy authentic crafts made by the locals. To my surprise, my Argentinian friend responded, that the locals will not come. Why not? They can make some money selling their crafts on commission? “They are not interested,” – his answer was. Because they are happy with their lives. I realized that I was measuring their lives by my standards. He also added that they don’t want to work to make money, they want you to give them money for free.

    I was bewildered and perplexed by his statement. As I continued working in South America, I started to recognize that the locals were taking my donations for granted. In fact, they demanded that I give them money while calling me “gringa” or even “gringita”, and laughing behind my back. I heard them giggling. When I went shopping, the local stores tried to charge me almost twice the price that they charged their own people. Most of the time, I did not pay the “gringo fair,” I simply left without making a purchase. Once, I elevated it to the management, and they lowered the price on the spot.

    Before my work in South America, I used to give donations to indigenous people. Having seen the demands, “sense of entitlement” as you stated, and, at the same time, disrespect to us, I stopped. In fact, my sewing club announced last week a “Give to the Poor” day inviting us to come and bring some fleece blankets to make hats and mittens for the needy. I actually got ready and found a fleece blanket at home, packed my sewing machine. But then I thought, why can’t they make hats and mittens themselves?


    • zambianlady
      Nov 24, 2014 @ 11:47:08

      I understand your frustration at giving hand outs to people capable of doing stuff for themselves. Sometimes our good intentions promote dependency. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  11. gfchopstix
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 01:48:14

    Hi Zambianlady, although I cannot relate to what you went through as a child, I do agree with your stance against free aid. The proverb ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ is so true. Kudos to you for achieving all that you have!


  12. annettemariebee
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 06:43:17

    I can really relate to this post, as our country seems to have taken this notion of rewarding laziness in our indigenous people. There are MANY Indigenous people here who work hard and make a life just the same as everyone else, go to school and do the right thing. Then there are also the ‘Flo’s’ who certainly love the handouts, especially with not much input in the first place.
    you have really struck a cord with me on this one 😉


    • zambianlady
      Nov 20, 2014 @ 21:15:54

      I guess it is a matter of one bad apple spoiling the barrel. A few ‘Flos’ end up spoiling the names of those that can use all the support they can get.


  13. michelledfarrell
    Nov 20, 2014 @ 00:56:57

    This is a very passionate piece of writing. It’s just sad that the people who really need aid do not get it because of pride.


  14. indamixworldwide
    Nov 19, 2014 @ 23:34:12

    This is a very sensitive subject, I would tend to think. Of course aid may be the factor of dependency, just like so to say a drug and therefore be a poison. That said, raising money for specific causes remains necessary, like for helping research against diseases, or illnesses such as cancer or AIDS, don’t you think? 😉


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