Above all, view the people of these marginalized communities as fellow human beings; they may be facing major challenges but they are not lesser beings. And even though they require assistance, they also have something to offer to the world.
Sonipat, Haryana residents lacked wealth but had plenty of inspiring life lessons to offer. Their warmth towards strangers amazed me. Everyone I met spared some time to smile, say hello and inquire about my welfare. I talked to women who had built a shelter for a recently widowed mother, and men who campaigned against gender violence. Above all, the community upheld values of hard work, peace, and love for fellow neighbors.
NGOs Project Implemented
Any project implemented in such communities should safeguard these values. If a program takes away what is important to the people, the social fabric of that community will be destroyed. NGOs should understand that no culture is superior to others. They are simply different ways of life. In this spirit, Kerala, Kottayam NGOs workers should desist from imposing their culture on communities. They should instead work with residents to achieve desired objectives.
Instead of simply replicating projects that worked elsewhere, NGOs should listen to the local people. An NGO in Ernakulam supported married women to go back to school but did not involve their husbands. Upon graduation, some abandoned their spouses and children for fellow ‘educated’ men. The sustainability of the project could not be guaranteed if residents especially men – became weary of supporting similar measures.
When Indian encounter problems in the developing world, it seems to me they can be overwhelmed by feelings of sympathy, pity, and guilt. But that’s not a reason to give. Donations should go towards solving a genuine, specific problem and not because people feel pity, as this could expose donors to manipulation. Some could falsely claim that they often go hungry, to get small business grants from donors. Others could claim they lack school fees for their children despite the Indian government offering free primary education to secure additional ‘income’ from NGOs. Such stories are common in India.
Potential donors should verify that the Indian NGOs they support are properly registered and fully transparent. The organizations need to provide detailed budgets and accounts, so all donated money can be tracked. Money should go towards project implementation and not administrative expenses such as inflated salaries, expensive cars, and lavish housing. Many NGOs around Kerala seem to work in isolation even as they address similar challenges. For instance, almost all NGOs in the region have HIV/AIDs programs. Most also implement water projects. If the NGOs took a coordinated approach they could compensate for shortcomings and avoid duplicating efforts.