How do we help?

How do we help ourselves and others? This section of the lounge looks at this difficult question. There are my thoughts but also case studies. With those case studies and issues, we ask for your thoughts. Reflect on how to help on yourself and others. Individuals and groups whose business it is to help are included under partnerships.

Troubling Thoughts

After seeing many disturbing situations while traveling, I became interested in what can be done to help others. I had a troubling conversation with a fellow backpacker traveling in South America. The focus of the conversation was how to help others. No matter what I came up with, my fellow traveler had a response that would douse my optimism. The least problematic for him was microloans. These are small loans to people in developing countries to help them start their own all businesses. Although somewhat supportive, he noted that if the businesses got too popular, they would either be taken over or destroyed by corrupt governments. Thus even though the intent is to help regular people, the end result was corruption getting stronger. Thus, people in needed more help. Unfortunately, my traveling confirmed some of these observations.

What Has Helped

Despite the pessimism, there is hope. The following traits are common solutions that have helped provide solutions whether they are within an individual, a family, a community, a country or worldwide. Is it possible that the solutions to our own personal tough situations, could also be used to solve the problems the human reasons face and have faced in the past? If so, that realization would be both encouraging and troubling. Or, are these largely societal issues more complex and not comparable to our own issues.

Mutually Beneficial

Finding a solution to an issue can often be beneficial for the groups seemingly opposing each other. It may be more profitable for these groups to convince us that a mutually beneficial solution cannot be had. The other side is wrong and must be stopped, so give us money to stop them. However, there are times that science and faith, the conservationist and land developer, etc. can coexist. The hyena man is a great example.

People Who Know

Successful solving problems must have people that know make the decisions to help resolve the issues. Internal problems will need the person to help the resolve the issue which may include additional, professional help. More widescale issues may require, additional people and organizations. Within those organizations, successful problem solvers acquire input from people who have taken the time to research and to be in the know.

Tornado Warning

The personality conflict tornado has destroyed many good organizations and ideas. Successful problem solvers and organizations put as much thought into addressing and answering concerns as was put into asking them (little thought asking a question equals little thought answering, a lot of time researching the issue equals a lot of time addressing). They understand that when there is a critique of “not doing anything” or “I feel like my voice wasn’t heard”, it may mean just not doing what I want. They understand that gossiping and claiming favoritism may be unresolved insecurities and those that are overly competitive may have low self-worth. While helping those in that situation is important, problems get solved by not getting caught in petty conflicts.  

Humble yourself

Pride is definitely a deadly sin and is an obstacle to solving problems. In Africa, this is called big man syndrome; I’m in charge and even I’m wrong, I’m right. It is much more difficult to solve an issue once it becomes political or people get locked into their viewpoint due to pride. Conversely, for those that have the knowledge and the skills, it is equally important to not just let those that complain but don’t know, dictate the solution.  

A common problem is for a group to enter a situation and try to solve it without input from those helping. An example is an organization building a well for drinking water (cover picture) without input from locals on construction, location and upkeep. This shows no respect for those you are helping. If the locals see the organization as a free bank or unlimited money supply, it also shows no respect in return.


Listen to old timers’ stories. It is noteworthy how soft we have become and how we collectively need to become more resilient. There are some horrendous situations in the world and while comparing them to first world complaints, one can see the lack of resiliency.  Faith is a major way to achieve resiliency. It provides hope and the ability to persevere when life is difficult. In poorer countries, organized religion and faith seem to play a more prominent role, thus providing hope and resiliency. Faith in friends and families is an additional way to provide this hope and work towards solutions.

Rights versus Responsibilities

Emphasis on individual responsibility to solve the problem. Over the past several decades, there has been a needed emphasis on individual rights. However, the corresponding affect has been a deemphasis on the responsibility to serve others on our Earth. I have the right to do whatever I want e but when things get tough, its someone else responsibility to fix it.  Successful organizations and problem solvers recognize and individual’s rights and the corresponding responsibilities to help not just yourself but others. Solving the issue needs to be a long-term solution, free of victimization, replaced by responsibility.

Case Studies

The above is certainly not an exhaustive lists and may not be helpful in every situations. Let’s looks at some issues and explore possible solutions.