Reflections on collaborative development #1: Implications of "sweat aid"

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature and impact of development initiatives since we left New York yesterday morning. My seating arrangement on the flight from Miami to Guatemala is what triggered my train of thought. I was sitting on 19A, surrounded by a group of 34 missionaries sent to Guatemala to do humanitarian work. Just on my flight I counted at least 60 people traveling to Guatemala for the summer to engage in some sort of humanitarian/development initiative.

It frightened me to realize the amount of volunteer “sweat” aid that Guatemala receives. Each initiative with its own vision, mission and program, each group co-opting the popular lingo from the field to promote their own agenda and approach.

How is the over-saturation of volunteer “sweat aid” affecting or benefiting Guatemala? What is the impact that these multiple interventions have on local communities and their local governments? What are the implications for communities when development/humanitarian initiatives are not part of a local strategic plan, but rather, are project-based, and continuously shifting based on the ideology and agenda of the visiting group?

How can we, as the visiting group, prevent the continuation of project based, isolated, non-coherent initiatives and engage with local actors to strengthen and contribute to their strategic plan. What if there isn’t a strategic plan?

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