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Should We Send Used Clothes to the Developing World?

Quick link: To Donate or Not to Donate?

At A Life Overseas today, I posted an updated essay for a few years ago, it includes new ideas, studies, articles, and experiences. I’m not an expert in development work. I’ve made my share of mistakes and have had many good intentions turn sour. I’ve learned some things and I think I’ve done some not-so-terrible things. This post is an attempt at stirring up the pot, at challenging us all to rethink how we can be both generous and wise.

I’m glad Amy Medina was brave recently and talked about similar things. And I’ve suggested many times that people read When Helping Hurts. I also suggest you read a book called The Crisis Caravan.

This book has more of a focus on how humanitarian aid impacts war and violence (as in, how it is implicated in the never-ending cycles) but I think many minds will be rocked (mine was and I’m used to stories like these) and ideas challenged.

We want to do good. We want to be generous. We have so much stuff. How can we also be wise and effective? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have some ideas.

*This was originally published as Don’t Send Your Used Shoes to Africa on Djibouti Jones in 2014. I bring it up again because on a recent flight to Kenya, my husband sat beside a Kenyan small business owner. Her clothing shop sells locally made dresses using Kenyan materials and Kenyan employees. She said these used clothes imports make it incredibly difficult to sustain her business. She gave my husband her business card and the next day he and I visited her shop and I bought a gorgeous dress. And then I read The Crisis Caravan: what’s wrong with humanitarian aid. Mind-blowing.

There is a debate in the development world about whether or not people in developed, wealthy nations should send their used shoes and clothing to less prosperous nations.

You have a pile of used clothes and old running shoes or sandals and purses and hats from last season. What do you do with it? Donate seems like the best answer, right? Is it? Is it the best practice for wealthy, developed nations to send their used items to Africa? (I’m using Africa because that is where I live. The issue is globally relevant.)

Click here to read the rest To Donate or Not to Donate?

About White Savior Barbie

Quick link: White Savior Barbie Nails It

This is up at A Life Overseas, my thoughts about the (hilarious and sad) Barbie Savior Instagram account.

Here’s an excerpt:

Barbie has an Instagram account. In case you’ve missed it, White Savior Barbie goes to Africa where she poses in a variety of absurd scenarios with over-the-top hash tags that perfectly capture the White Savior mentality.

Of course, as this article points out, Savior Barbie is largely preaching to the choir; people who are already savvy and aware and debating the issues. Most people outside the aid and development world or not engaged in the global South probably don’t care and their attitudes won’t be challenged or changed by a parody Instagram account. Fine, point taken.

Also, the photos reek of sarcasm and cynicism and stereotypes. Got it. But…

Click here to read the rest and join the discussion: White Savior Barbie Nails It

Packing, Is It All Just Stuff? at Babble

Today I’m pumped to send you to Babble, another site I will start contributing to. The stunning Kristy Carlson of Long Miles Coffee Project: blogger, photographer extraordinaire, expatriate in Burundi, mom, coffee connoisseur, all-around amazingly talented and deep woman, has invited me to share her Babble Blog, Into Africa. I’m excited and humbled – this woman rocks. Kristy is one of those friends about whom I am convinced that I’m getting the better end of the bargain. We share common history (met in college) and a similar present (living, working, raising a family in Africa). We document this challenging and fulfilling life with the hope that words and pictures will help us figure it out, help us live and love and honor our host nations with ever.more.grace.

My first post is about packing, something I’ve done so many times I should be an expert. But there are always tears, always forgotten items, always silly things that waste suitcase space, and always the reminder that it is just stuff.

I’d love for you to head over to the Babble site to read, share, and comment. We’re working on increasing traffic to Into Africa. I’ll be posting there at least once a month. Check out Kristy’s blog too. I dare you to spend less than ten minutes browsing her photos of Burundian coffee farmers.

Here’s an excerpt and then click on through…

Packing, Is It All Just Stuff?

Let’s talk about packing. I love listening to expatriates talk about shopping and packing. Anyone else been the woman at Payless with twenty boxes of shoes? Buy 1, get one ½ off. We expat moms looking for sandals and tennis shoes for the foreseeable future take that seriously. Anyone else been the woman in Kohl’s crying in the dressing room because you don’t know what size your daughter will be two years from now? Or cried in Target because you don’t know if you’ll be back in one year or two years and how much sunscreen you will use between now and then?

Either you’ve packed, way too many times, or you are about to pack and have way too many questions. Either you are going somewhere few people have gone before and can get no reliable information on what you need or how you might get it there, or you are going somewhere loads of people have gone and you face far too many suggestions of what you need or how you might get it there.

I know how she feels

I know how she feels

Packing is country-dependent, family-dependent, personality-dependent, cost-dependent, and sanity-dependent

Read more about packing, the issues it causes our marriage, and the attitudes we’ve embraced about 500 pounds of luggage…Packing, Is It All Just Stuff?

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