Posts

emotional responses to global poverty

What is more valuable: $55 given now or $85 given in three months? Obviously, $85 has a higher monetary value than $55, but peoples’ perceptions of value take more into account than the number itself—for instance, people consider the value of getting paid immediately. What’s more, peoples’ emotional states also influence their perceptions of value.

For example, research has shown that people who feel sad tend to act impatiently, so sad people would more often choose the instant $55 over the delayed $85. As it might be in one’s best interest to wait for more money, sadness hinders one’s ability to make wise financial decisions.

So when making financial decisions, one should suppress all emotion! Right?

Not necessarily, argues a new study published in Psychological Science. One emotion, gratitude, actually improves our ability to factor long-term options into decision-making. This study found that people who felt gratitude chose the delayed $85 unless the instant payment was $63, rather than $55. By contrast, people who felt neutral or happy needed only the $55 to choose the instant cash option.

How do these psychological studies relate to philanthropy and emotional responses to global poverty, though?

Ending global poverty requires people to philanthropize, but philanthropy comes in different varieties. Consider two: On the one hand, a person can donate money to, say, have a freshwater well built for people who lack access to clean drinking water. This method of philanthropy—”direct aid,” for lack of a better name—gets real results quickly.

On the other hand, a person can donate money to policy groups that work to mobilize the resources of national governments. This is advocacy, a method of philanthropy that sees results less quickly but often sees bigger results than direct aid. Both methods of philanthropy have been indispensable in the fight against global poverty. Yet, advocacy seems to be a less favored method for givers; for instance, the revenues of the International Rescue Committee were roughly 29 times greater than those of the Center for Global Development, a major policy-shaping organization, in 2013.

Charitable donations are subject to the same time value of money questions that arose in the experiment on emotions and decision-making. “Is it more useful to take the $55 or $85?” becomes “is it more useful to build a well now or to shape policy that secures water for millions of people?” The answer to these questions depends on a number of factors: the desperation of those without the well, or the likelihood that policies will be changed, to name a few.

Philanthropists should probably consider both options, but certain emotions such as sadness seem to inhibit their ability to do so.

People are inundated with images or facts concerning poverty calculated to make them feel sad. To feel less sad, people then donate. However, by nature people want sadness to diminish quickly, which seems best achieved if their donations get quick results. Might this fact then cause them to overlook the potential of advocacy?

In the interest of preserving both direct aid and advocacy philanthropy, perhaps the potential philanthropist must approach global poverty in a certain way. Responding to the grim realities of poverty with gratitude for one’s own fortune might indeed be more useful than responding with sadness—to philanthropists seeking to make the best financial decision, at least.

-Ryan Yanke

Sources: PsyblogHarvard Psychological Science Magazine, The Borgen ProjectCenter for Global Development, International Rescue Committee
Photo: Huffington Post

crafts_opt
Alleviating global poverty is a task that must grow from the bottom-up, states Concern America, an international development and refugee aid organization, maintains as it aims to provide long-term, community-based development to developing countries around the world.

While also accepting the validity of helping developing countries through direct monetary aid and governmental initiatives, Concern America chooses to focus on how individuals, rather than corporations, can play a key role in societal change.

Thus, the small team of 19 aid-workers at Concern America trains community members in impoverished countries in health, education, construction and more so that they can become better-functioning members of a productive society. With this, the organization hopes to instill momentum and hope in a society that can help assure economic stability and basic human rights that would otherwise be absent.

Some of Concern America’s projects include its Marketplace of Fair Trade Crafts, which gives families in need access to fair prices and dependable markets while also preserving traditional culture. Additionally, Concern America promotes various field programs that instruct community members in skills such as midwifery that can improve women’s health quality while decreasing infant mortality rates.

In a world where well-meaning developmental aid can get lost in corruption schemes and bribery at high levels of society, Concern America prides itself in investing in individuals on the ground.

Concern America’s initiatives show that, while giving materials and money to those in need is beneficial, giving knowledge and opportunities can more often bring a society out of poverty.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Source: Concern America, OC Register
Photo: Ohio Fair Trade Marketplace

Syrian-Americans Head Directly to Front-Line of AidIf you want something done right, then you have to do it yourself. Even if that means traveling to dangerous locations with $1600 worth of baggage fees. For every report on monetary aid to Syria, there is an equally compelling report on how that aid fails to reach its intended recipients. Instead of refusing to donate money to avoid becoming part of the problem, many Syrian-Americans are completely skipping the middleman and heading straight to the heart of the matter themselves.

Every few weeks, Omar Chamma makes his way out of his Orange County home leaving behind his wife and three children. By the looks of the dozens of bags he carries with him, it’s clear he is not going on any normal trip. Omar Chamma, originally from Damascus, has been returning to the Syrian-Turkish border to hand-deliver much-needed supplies. “Every time I fly out of Istanbul, I will say, you know, this is my last time – I’m not going to go back again. Then I sit down and think about what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the desperation in their eyes down there. And every time I come back there, there is nobody there showing up to help them.”

There is no huge cargo plane, no guarded UN delivery trucks, and no transfer of money. In his luggage, Mr. Chamma stuffs as much food, medical supplies, and blankets as he can. The rest he will buy once in Turkey with the almost $1.5 million he has collected over the past year from fellow Syrian-Americans living in and around Southern California. He isn’t the director of a non-profit nor volunteering for one. This real-estate investor operates a one-man organization; no red tape, no bureaucracy, and no one to report to.

Except for his wife. Although his family has become used to his frequent trips (he has made 7 in the past year), it doesn’t take away from their constant worrying. His wife Mavis Benton Chamma states, “Every time he goes I just leave it to God. If it’s something is going to happen, at least I know he’s doing what he believes in.”

Although not as independent as Mr. Chamma, Sama Wareh has had the same calling to return to her homeland and help directly in any way she can. Her parents, however, were not in any way excited about it. Because of her promise to them not to cross into Syria on her trips, Sama has remained across the border in Turkey focusing on finding escapees who have not yet found a camp or somewhere to stay. She helps buy food for them and find somewhere safe and warm for them to live. She insists however that on her next trip, she has no intention of staying away from Syria despite her parents’ pleadings.

For many of us, leaving our families and jobs is not easy. Mr. Chamma has been blessed with the money he has raised and the support of his family to do what he feels in necessary to save his people. Sama Wareh, an artist, is able to work around her home lifestyle to go out to Syria and make an immediate difference in the lives of many. They may not be saving millions of lives, but the manner in which they do help Syrian refugees is unparalleled to the way in which the UN and other agencies and organizations deliver their aid.

When hearing these sorts of stories, remember that everyone is given a different path and purpose in life. Your heart may desire to drop everything and go out to the front-line but facing reality is equally important to make sure you make the right decisions. For many of us who donate money through an organization, read and write articles, and discuss global issues with family and friends, our jobs can be as effective as what these Syrian-Americans do. If the timing is perfect and the feeling is genuine, those who wish to eliminate all the unnecessary ‘fluff’ filling the gap between them and a cause they are passionate about will be able to. The millions of dollars donated to Syria and any other country will never compare to the face to face interactions and immediate life-changing moments that Omar Chamma and Sama Wareh have been lucky enough to experience and that many of us will hopefully have a chance to experience as well.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:npr :All Things Considered
Photos:BBC News