First things first, the basics: an NGO is a non-governmental agency. In layman's terms: a non-profit, voluntary group, independent from government organizations that usually focuses on some aspect of humanitarian aid, development, or human rights. In essence, these are the invisible hands that pick up those left behind in society and dedicate their time and efforts to improving the lives of millions around the globe (basically the “Justice League,” minus Superman).
Have you ever found yourself pondering away about what you can do to make the world a better place? If you're a millennial, I hate to break it to you but don't feel too special, this mindset isn’t unique.
Even with this overshared ideology, not everyone donates or volunteers to charitable organizations, and it's not always because they don't want to. For this case, I’m going to focus solely on Africa.
Here are some unintentional hurdles that block us from monetarily following through with our good intentions. This list is what I call the “Top 3 NGO Wallet-Blockers."
1. We focus too much on saving the world. Don't get me wrong, saving planet Earth is a good thing (especially since we’re still trying to figure out how to live on Mars). However, this thought process makes us forget the "little things." Let me know if this sounds familiar: you see an ad campaign about donating clothing to earthquake victims in Haiti. Your first thought is “Wow, a terrible earthquake struck and all we’re thinking about is wardrobe? These people need food security, new infrastructure, sustainable development and sheesh, this isn’t even scratching the surface!” And in turn, you end up turning down the charitable donation. While these points are valid, we must not discredit the “little things” which are usually first in line on our chopping block of humanitarian essentials. Many of us question the purpose of donating a dollar and grimace at the thought of not being able to afford a $100 donation. However, don’t cast your dollar as naught. If you examine both the people and the crisis they’re under, somewhere in the midst of all the chaos someone may need a new pair of shoes or a simple shirt just to cover them up as he or she go through the unfathomable. The “little things” work as an alleviation (and a reminder of humanity) while NGOs swoop in and blueprint a long-term solution.
2. Amnesia. Even with my news background, I am somehow not immune to the sudden “news amnesia” I get from almost every current event story on Africa. Here's a brief throwback: 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria in 2014 (update: about over a hundred are still missing), Boko Haram killed over 11,000 people in 2015 alone (what?!), and remember when Ebola ransacked West Africa in 2014, with those infected facing a 70% mortality rate? I'm certain all of us took part in some sort of hashtag campaign or liked/shared an article we saw on Facebook. So what's the deal with our temporary amnesia? Well, typically, any news blurb on Africa features a two-minute read that is way too complex to digest, thus leaving some of us with newfound desires to either: pursue a master’s degree or link up with our good friend Google. Sadly, the chances of us going out of our way to do thorough research on a foreign topic that poses no effect or threat on our day-to-day lives is slim. So here we are again with a fully functioning continent we know nothing about.
3. We see Africans ballin'. I’m sure most of you have seen or heard about successful African doctors, lawyers, businessmen, athletes (hello, Serge Ibaka) in person or on television. I also would put money on a decent amount of you even sampling some of Africa’s thriving movie productions (FYI it beat out Hollywood). All these things end up camouflaging dire, ongoing situations in Africa as something that is somewhat escapable when in actuality, it’s not. This smokescreen is what I call the “tool of comfort.” This tool enables me to casually gloss over heartbreaking, atrocities and sub-human conditions felt throughout Africa and replace those headlines with breaking news developments on the Kardashians or the latest Hollywood breakup (since why should I depress myself if there is a way out for them?). If you sink deeper into this misleading, comforting mindset, you will eventually develop a false illusion and desensitization that hides/deafens the agonizing pain of the impoverished (almost) majority in Africa.
I imagine most of you reading this have nodded your heads at some of the points I've made. So why exactly am I writing this? Well, first and foremost to showcase the importance of NGOs and to dissolve our apathetic roadblocks in order to break our internal misconceptions (in English: to bring to light some of our own personal charitable setbacks in hopes of pathing the way for a more altruistic generation). So here’s the good news; there are already millennials making astronomical gains to improve the lives of dozens of school children and families in Africa.
Let's get to it.