Accepting You’re A Sidekick

Dear development,

It’s hard to accept that you aren’t as important as you thought.

On multiple occasions, I found it difficult to see myself as only a helping hand.

Growing up, charities glamorized the act of giving. Posters reading “it only takes one person to change the world”  hung on every wall of my school. In big letters, it told us that we were destined to be that person.

That illusion has been shattered.

Working with clients made me realize how small a role me, and my work, play in their lives.

Yesterday I sat down with a client and went over her finances. She took out a large loan with us to open her store. As it turned out, we were only ten percent of the original investment. The rest came from her pockets, a family loan, and another MFI – all of which put her deep in the red.

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The work I had done and pride I had felt was unraveled.

It forced me to accept I was not the hero.

It forced me to accept my impact on the world was not as great as I wanted it to be.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this realization either. There have been multiple instances in Honduras when my efforts have paled in comparison to those of the clients and other aid workers. I tell you this not to dismantle my own super hero complex, but to warn you against believing it yourself.

Just look at the ads.

NGOs riddle their websites with pictures of smiling farmers and excited students. It implies the misfortunate are the sidekicks; that somehow their allegiance is to the organization – the one behind the camera – who’s supposedly ending their poverty.

Remind yourself that the NGO may only be ten percent of their lives.

They are the heroes of their own story. Their allegiance is to their children. We are family friends, bystanders, and good Samaritans.

Sidekicks.

If you work in international aid, take the sidekick pledge today, and honor the people you serve.

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One comment

  1. Great insights, Jeff. The best is the last. They are the heroes. And you are my hero.

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