When you give hard-earned dollars to a charity, don’t you want to know that your contribution is worthwhile? I certainly do. If a group needs to raise $500, and $800 has already come in, why should I donate to that? It’s not needed.
My reasoning isn’t unique, and it’s probably why many charities offer the ultimate in practical, helpful gifts for those in developing countries: animals. Who doesn’t feel good when knowing that they’re donating a cow to an impoverished family — why, it can provide them with milk for years! A flock of chickens can provide eggs! Perhaps an animal or two could even help a family start a small business and lift themselves out of poverty. Oh, the possibilities! It’s so … American.
Only, maybe it’s not as great as it seems. I recently read an article suggesting that animal gifts might actually be a bad thing for the very people we’re trying to help. It brings up things I’d actually not considered: these donated animals require food, shelter, and vet care – things the very poor may not have. Some of the animals can create a disease risk, and the land they take up can reduce the amount of farming land available to people who sorely need it.
In the interest of full disclosure, the accusations are made by “World Land Trust and Animal Aid.” When I google them, I can only find this organization in conversations about this article. They may be a totally off-the-wall group. And Christian Aid, one of the charities involved in gifting animals, insists that they only place donated animals in villages with the resources to care for them. So I can’t vouch for how big a problem this actually is.
But it does make me think about how we give. Giving is always a step of faith — I think about this when I send in $20 to buy a gift for one of the girls we sponsor. How does this work? Does it create jealousy and hard feelings when one child is given a new outfit from her sponsors, and others aren’t? If we sponsor a Bible student, what happens to the others in the pool awaiting sponsors? Do they feel slighted? Do some drop out altogether? I suppose we have to pray over how to give and let God determine the outcomes in a decidedly less-than-perfect world.
In the meantime, enjoy a glass of milk – and be grateful you’re not beholden to a rich American to supply the cow that gives it.