It is very interesting how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) pick their projects in Siuna, Nicaragua. Actually, I would bet that most NGOs around the world, including NGOs in ‘The West’ function as so: the focus of the NGO is not always driven by the best interests of the community but rather by the donors’ interests. Why do I say this? Well, lately we have been talking with Juan, our main contact, about our next project with Salud Sin Límites (SSL), and it has been hard to pry out of him what SSL thinks is best for the community. He told us that they have never really gotten the chance to think about it. They have always had a criteria to meet or a funder to appease. They have managed to maintain the overall focus of SSL while working with other funders, but they haven’t been able to give their opinion 100 percent, whereas we as an organization want to fund exactly what project SSL wants to implement. We reminded Juan that GlobeMed was different from other donors in this way. As GlobeMed, we want to sufficiently reach the needs of the Siuna community in the most sustainable way. And we recognize that SSL, an organization significantly integrated with the Siuna community, knows the best way how to do that because they understand the priorities of the community much better than we ever could. Eventually, Juan did tell us what projects SSL thought would be most effective in the community, but it was curious how long it took him to disregard our opinion for the sake of the conversation.
I wish more donors understood that community organizations, like SSL know their community best. Donors can be so wasteful with their money sometimes: thousands of dollars might go to buy food, which is good, but its temporary. And if the food is imported to the community from an outside source, the community farmers and other food producers could go out of business. This is just one example of how ineffective foreign aid can be. If the donor does not listen to the community, the money will most likely go to waste. If donors were more interested in learning about the community’s needs, and working with one or more community leaders, the health and general development of lower-income communities globally could potentially improve dramatically.