Foreign Aid At Its Best

Sierra Leone mapI support foreign aid because it reflects a willingness of rich nations to share resources with those less fortunate.  I criticize foreign aid because it tends to go from government to government, often encouraging corruption and wastefulness.  Or is driven primarily by self-interest, often undermining rather than nurturing a country’s independence (e.g. U.S. food aid that has to be spent importing US food and ends up driving local farmers off the land).

Which makes this short video from UpWorthy so inspiring.   The focus is on Kelvin Doe, an ingenious 15 year old from Sierra Leone.  The foreign aid in this case resulted a 3-week guest residency at MIT for Kelvin, the result of yeoman efforts by MIT’s Media Lab’s David Sengeh who is also from Sierra Leone.

Sengeh is on a mission.  He firmly believes that countries like his own will not progress until they identify and nurture tens of thousands of rooted and committed young people who view problems as challenges and opportunities and possess the ingenuity and persistence to make the most of the opportunities.

Kelvin is one of those young people.  Even in this brief video we are witness to an unusual combination of talent and humility and an abiding love of family and community.

Kelvin taught himself electronics and when he discovered the lights in his village sometimes come on only once a week he scrounged used materials and parts to build a battery.  To give youth a voice and the community a vehicle for participating in decisions he built a radio transmitter and generator.

His visit to MIT expanded his horizons but didn’t diminish his devotion to family and community.  Whatever I’ve learned here I will go back and share and do it as a team he calmly and assuredly says.  “I want to help my family,” he notes, and the pictures indicate a very large family indeed.  And a tear runs down his cheek.





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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.