The United States has always prided itself on being a leader in the push for global development, yet, the United States still ranks close to the bottom in aid donations with only point two percent of the federal budget allocated to foreign aid.

Sometimes, passing bills intended to increase this percentage can be hard to swing with voters. From the U.S. perspective, foreign aid can appear to be a one way street.

This is a common misconception. The benefits to increasing the quality of life of the other 95% of the world’s population have numerous economic, altruistic and security benefits. But there is an even more tangible way to measure to returns on our aid pledges: when the United States finds itself in a situation, the world often tries to return the favor.

Here are just five examples of how foreign aid made a difference here at home:

1. Hurricane Katrina Response

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, both allies and non-allies of the United States pledged over $850 million in aid, and numerous offers of in-kind assistance such as helicopters, medical teams and first aid equipment. Singapore alone, a country that is slotted to receive $240,000 from USAID, send three Chinook helicopters that were used to transport nearly 100 air force personnel to aid with evacuation.

“I’m not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn’t asked for it,” said President Bush after Katrina devastated New Orleans. Yet the international community responded en masse.

2. Joplin, MI Laptops from the UAE

In 2011, a series of massive tornadoes swept through Joplin, Missouri, which lies on the border between Missouri and Oklahoma. An already struggling town with nearly 62% of children living below the federal poverty line, the tornadoes destroyed Joplin’s public school system, as well as the local hospital.

In 2013, the United Arab Emirates pledged to accelerate the rebuilding process by removing the burden of textbook replacement costs on public schools. Instead, they eliminated the need for books entirely by providing all of the 2,200 students with a MacBook laptop. Additionally, the UAE donated five million dollars to rebuild a neonatal intensive care unite at local Mercy Hospital.

3. Turkey Gives Clean Water to Oregon Reservation

In 2013, Turkey’s agency for Cooperation and Collaboration (TIKA) provided $200,000 in aid to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation Oregon. The funds were used to build a water tower in confederation with a local elementary school. The tower was predicted to meet the reservation’s water needs for the next 10 years.

This was the first foreign aid donation to a private entity in the United States, according to the Washington Post.

4. China Sends Aid During the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

As early as 1906, the Chinese governments sent “one hundred thousand Taels” to aid in the relief effort for the earthquake and devastating fire in San Francisco. The amount was donated as “a mark of friendship between the two countries.”

The aid was instrumental in the reconstruction San Francisco, and is remembered in a special exhibition displaying telegraph correspondences between the Chinese Empress and the United States in the San Francisco museum.

5. Equipment for BP Oil Spill Containment

After the explosion of the deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20th, 2010, the United States received 13 unrequested offers of assistance from over 17 countries.

According to the Washington Post, “the Administration accepted Mexico’s offer of two skimmers and 13,779 feet of boom; a Dutch offer of three sets of Koseq sweeping arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil; and eight skimming systems offered by Norway.”

This equipment helped to speed up the slow process of oil containment and cleanup, preventing further damage to the gulf ecosystem.

– Emma Betuel

Sources: The Heritage Foundation, The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, The Washington Post
Photo: The Washington Post