Saturday, September 19, 2015

Misplaced philanthropy and the SWEDOW phenomenon

A timely article by the excellent Leah Maclaren reminds us all of what five minutes thought might easily tell us: sending used baby carriers, slings, pacifiers and sippy cups to the war-torn and displaced is not an efficient use of our commendable and well-meaning charitable impulses.
Apparently, there are any number of charitable organizations out there with names like Ring Slings and Baby Things for Syrian Refugees. But, as any aid worker on the ground will tell you, they really don't need the processing and logistical hassles of transporting and distributing these used goods, especially when the real need is for essentials like food, water, shelter, medical care and emotional support. There is even a Twitter hashtag #SWEDOW ("Stuff WE DOn't Want") for this; it is not a new phenomenon.
So, instead of sending baby accoutrements, hand-knitted blankets and tents, just donate money to a reputable NGO with a presence on the ground, and they will use it to fund trained people to assess the needs and fill them as efficiently as possible. If you really have excess baby gear, then sell it locally and donate the money, or give it to needy individuals in your own area.
But, please, don't send your Baby Bjorns and Bugaboos to Syrian refugees in Hungary and Croatia. They really don't need them, and you are creating more problems than you are solving, however well-meaning your impulses may be.

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