Димитър Христев

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Is humanitarianism really helping out the poor people?

The word humanitarianism in my country brings the thoughts of "let's be humane and donate 1 euro for the poor people from Africa,or for that dying from cancer boy etc. Half of that money probably will be spend or stolen by someone but giving that 1 euro is going to make me feel better until the next campaign ". Are we really changing lives by giving that 1 euro?Isn't better to help one feed himself instead of feeding him with charity?

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    Sep 15 2011: Foreign countries and the United Nations have spent Billions of dollars on foreign aid and the so-called "Charity" in African countries. Not much has changed. When the people are empowered to become innovative solution providers, they will solve their community's problems. Its as simple as that. Don't give a man fish; teach him how to fish.
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      Sep 16 2011: Well said mate! I wish you all the best to you and to all of our friends in Africa.
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      Sep 16 2011: I totally agree with you Seun. To be honest though the last thing the U.N. wants to do is empower the people.This claim would be absurd in the U.S. for the simple fact that the U.S. government is afraid when people come together as one (A great example of this would be the G-20 summit protest in Pittsburgh in 09 and the events in Seattle, Washington in 1999. These are great examples of how martial law has a role in protecting corporate and governmental interest) . What gives countries like the U.S. and a system like the U.N. their power is the people suffering and being impoverished. Its all a method of control and power because as long as the people are suffering the more you can control them and their resources. But I agree with you, teach a man how to fish as opposed to fishing for him. Well said.
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      Sep 16 2011: most of the time, we don't even have to teach them to fish. sometimes the fishing rod is the only thing missing. but even more often, lack of warlords and dictators would be just enough.
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      Sep 12 2011: The western industrial revolution would never have gotten the West so far ahead of the rest of the world if they didn't have the colonies to built there industries and markets on... and that is still happening in the Meddle East ,Africa and Asia. It's all about resources and who controls them. Pure capitalism feeds some but leave others hungry.
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          Sep 12 2011: The soviets were communists yet they were excellent engineers and inventors as well. Humans invent things that is what we are- inventors. But we are starting a new topic here... and we have serious topic to talk about.
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    • Sep 12 2011: If free market policies can be relied on to reduce poverty and starvation, why did Malawi, Niger, Somalia all experience famines shortly after implementing the free market policies of the IMF and the World Bank? Honestly, I'd like an explanation of this.
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          Sep 13 2011: I asume you've been living in communist country, you are quite knowlegable about what the life was in a communist country. I was born in a communist country but I am to young to remember the life back then. But my parents and grand parents did and the stories I am hearing from them about that time are not so bad at all. The problem was that the decisions weren't taken from the people for the peopla but from few "другари" who were interested in there well being.
          But the meat was real meat, the milk was real milk the bread we ate was real bread. I remember we still had those things in the early days of the capitalism in Bulgaria. and I remember the 90's when the demokracy gave us Mcdonalds and KFC but the inflation was so high that 1 dollar was equal to 3000 bulgarian levs so we couldn't afford to buy "The Big Mac".

          Тhere was no bread because there was no grain left, and there was no meat because all the communist farms were sold for few dollars to few "special people" and they slaughter 90% of all the farm animals for " export" and all the farm land was given back to ordinary people who had no interest or idea how to farm land.
          So now 21 years after the capitalism "works" in Bulgaria we have banks and credists, most of the savings of the people are gone. 80% of the people used to own there homes but now is almost imposible to buy a flat. Most of the people live with 150-200$ a month same amount of money my parents use to live with 25 years ago but now we dont eat real food,we don't drink good water and we are slaves to the banks( I am not but I have good job). So what gave us the capitalism, it gave everything to few and few to everyone.
          Both systems have their flaws I am sure you don't live the American dream anymore in America:) and the communism is dead. It's time for something new to start and change the world.
          PS : I can not call the Wall Str a free market, can you?
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        Sep 16 2011: you don't get a free market economy if you take a failed state, and implement two policies suggested by organizations run by governments and banks.

        if it was a valid argument, i could just point to a failed state with a leader older than 40, and claim that people older than 40 ruin their countries.
    • Sep 15 2011: Capitalism does not solve poverty problems. If capitalism did than we would not have 40 million people in USA below poverty level.

      The only way to solve poverty is through "thoughts" and through self-study because it is the right intention that leads us out of poverty.
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        Sep 16 2011: 40 million below the poverty level with flat TV, car, overweight from eating frozen pizzas. what kind of poverty level is this?? the entire developing world envies that kind of "poverty"
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        Sep 17 2011: I must say Vijay that the poor in the US are not like the poor in other countries, so maybe Edwin has a point there about capitalism.

        Most poor in capitalists countries (the US, for example) have at the their fingertips what most lower-middle class people in that same system don't have which is:

        Practically free Housing (could be as low as $100 per month or less)
        If there is no housing (because when real estate is at a premium--low cost housing is not as common) there are still free shelters that people can stay at while they wait for housing slots to open up.
        Free food (not just with food stamps but there are TONS of food banks (at least in CA anyway)
        Free medical care--many poor people get free Medi-cal for their kids through special programs, and free Medi-Cal for adults who have disabilities and little or not income.
        Low cost utility programs.

        So, these people may not be successful by most 'capitalistic' standards but they have, arguably, more options than the poor in non-capitalists countries. I guess things are kind of like this:

        In Capitalism: Those who can, or have an advantage (ie born to already rich families) do alright and those who can't, or don't have as many opportunities can still get help (as elucidated above).

        In Non-capitalists: Either no one gets ahead (except leaders) or most people don't get ahead but a handful elite get ahead.

        Yeah, we still have elite in capitalism and it has flaws, what system doesn't? I guess capitalism works for now--when we are out of resources who knows but for now in this type of system population growth is expected to stabilize, we have clean drinking water and basic services etc. Check mate for capitalism for now.
    • Sep 16 2011: "The western industrial revolution increased life expectancy, life quality and standards of living for all in the west."

      Yeah...except that this was done at the expense of pretty much the whole rest of the world.... Ever wondered where your iPhone 4 ended up when you throw it away? Ever wondered where all the green biofuel was cultivated? Capitalism only works because those who suffer because of you are far from your eyes and far from your heart.
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        Sep 16 2011: no it was not. it is a sad (or outrageous) fact that the west robbed and suppressed the 3rd world for long. and it might be even more sad that they didn't really profit from it. it was all a very expensive quest for power.

        capitalism in the west grew locally. and even today, it is the engine of growth.
        • Sep 16 2011: "capitalism in the west grew locally. and even today, it is the engine of growth"

          Locally... like with quasi-free raw material from Africa, cheap manpower from Asia. That kind of local growth? If the west grew locally, we would still be in middle age. We were able to grow so fast only because we fed capitalism with the blood of the less fortunate.

          And growth of what? Growth of our over-fat bellies? We grew enough. It's time for a diet. Let's at least save the crumbs for those who haven't eaten yet.
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        Sep 16 2011: i said "grew". not grows. today it grows without borders. but 200 years ago, it was cheaper to move people than to move food for example. it is a good thing. today, we have no famines anymore. only failed states have famines. stable countries don't.
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      Sep 16 2011: I would have to disagree with Edwin's comment about capitalism being the solution to poverty. If anything capitalism is the cause of poverty. In the U.S. there are so many cities that are impoverished due to being part of a capitalistic society. The very nature of capitalism allows for one to be greedy. This is evident by the many bailouts that the U.S. government is doing or trying to due. The fact that corporate elites are lobbying constantly on capital hill (Goldman Sach's is a great example). It is a system based off profit making, wage labor (more like wage slavery) and competition. When a political economy is based off this type of system it really spells out for disaster. Now, I can acknowledge that there are people who live in capitalistic societies that are good and are really humanitarian but for the most part capitalism causes you to value things that really should not be of value (Fame, Glory, Profit making, exploitation, etc). I really think it is the cause of modern day imperialism. A man named Peter Kropotkin once said "cooperation is always better than competition".
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        Sep 16 2011: yeah sure. look at south korea and north korea. look at east and west germany. capitalism does not strike me as the cause of poverty. rather the opposite.

        capitalism is cooperation. for more on this, watch the talk by matt ridley. nobody on this planet knows how to make a pencil. but together, through capitalism, people work together, and you can pick a pencil in a supermarket at any time. that is a global cooperation of scale impossible to comprehend.
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          Sep 16 2011: Capitalism at its core is based off of competition, not cooperation. That is not to say that people do not cooperate within capitalism but for the most part its about fulfilling people's own personal interest. What I mean by cooperation is, cooperation between the people, the masses, not between these corporate elites, who are after the same thing and is competing to get their own piece of the pie. People are not coming together trying to help one another but instead are trying to protect their own.

          Secondly you do not need capitalism to make pencil's. As a matter of fact (I'm speaking about the U.S. since that is where I live) machines are the one's making pencils, not individuals coming together creating them for themselves. There are so many cities in the united states that suffers because not enough money in being generated within the city and because the local governmental officials has done nothing but serve their own selfish interest.

          But let me ask you this. If Capitalism is such a great system, then why is their a global economic crisis? Why are third world countries being exploited by these industrial, capitalistic countries for their resources and business expansions? Capitalism is a joke.
        • Sep 16 2011: "yeah sure. look at south korea and north korea. look at east and west germany. capitalism does not strike me as the cause of poverty."

          Of course, again you look inside the capitalist country. Don't you understand that the poverty that capitalism creates is outside? In all the other countries?

          "you can pick a pencil in a supermarket at any time. that is a global cooperation of scale impossible to comprehend."

          Global cooperation? The wood for your pencil probably comes from a devastated ex-forest where the fauna and flora are disappearing. And the children working there probably won't ever have the chance to go to school. It's not cooperation. the rules are just written and enforced by those who have the cash. End of the line.

          We, and our previous generations, under the banner of capitalism, have developed in the most selfish and irresponsible way. Capitalism is a crime against humanity. And now it's probably our children who are going to pay the price.
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        Sep 16 2011: you don't understand how the economy works. that's why i recommended matt ridley's talk. competition is essential in capitalism, but it is not based on it. it is based on cooperation, also known as the division of labor.

        machines are also created by capitalism. and what machines makes, have to be decided. capitalism is needed for that too. nobody on the earth knows how to make a pencil, let alone the machines that are used to make it. and the cooperation between literally thousands if not millions of people who make the pencil is organized by the price system, free trade and decision making entrepreneurs. that is, capitalism.

        the global economic crises is caused by government regulations that aimed to solve "problems" caused by the free market. for example a some-decades old effort of the US government to grant big houses to everyone in the country, no matter if they can afford it or not. here is another clip you badly need to watch:


        it is a little long. peter schiff, broker, talks to mortgage bankers at a conference in 2006. forecasting the meltdown, and explaining its reasons.
        • Sep 16 2011: I can't even believe there are people defending capitalism on TED. Please tell me you're playing the devil's advocate, I'll have a good laugh and admit you got me!

          What you describe here is the theoretical capitalist utopia. It's all full of rainbows and unicorns, in fact it's just as pink and happy as the communist utopia.

          What we see in reality are electronic waste landfills in Nigeria, mercury poisoned children working in gold quarries, or exploited manpower to cultivate our daily coffee.

          The only goal in capitalism is profit. It can involve cooperation, but only if it means more profit. It is definitely not based on cooperation, because in capitalism, if you are given the opportunity to eat your partner, you're gonna do it. Do you really call that cooperation?
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          Sep 16 2011: Krisztián Pintér, I do not need to be an expert economist to realize the negative affect that capitalism has on the world. There is a reason why socialist and even some communist countries are better off than capitalistic ones. Capitalism is a vindication for poly-archy (if you do not know what that is I suggest you look it up. Start with James Madison and what he had to say about this).

          Also for the name of capitalism, political and industrial interest, all the biotic community on earth is being harmed. We, as human beings, not politicians should realize the affect that we are having on the earth. We should realize that we are part of nature, not against it or as Aldo Leopold stated "we are members/citizens of the earth, not conquers"...so that pencil that you are talking about and as Mr. Kebasoup pointed out was only created by a systematic process, that allowed the government to "legally" cut down trees.

          Also capitalism did not create machines....people's education, hard work and innovative skills made the machines possible, not capitalism.
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        Sep 16 2011: @Mr Kebabsoup: what do you think, why i'm 100% sure that you didn't follow any of my links? i tell you why: because your arguments are well known, and answered a lot of times. it is getting boring in fact. your lack of understanding how capitalism works is dwarfed only by your baseless self confidence, probably fueled by romantic conspiracy theories. i can't believe that this mindless propaganda is on TED.
        • Sep 17 2011: Ok so it's not a joke, you really believe what you're saying? I guess there's really no point arguing with you. I'm just disappointed by such a lack of compassion in a human brother.
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        Sep 17 2011: Orlando , in fact you must not be be an expert economist to realize the negative effects of capitalism. if you are, you realize that you were wrong. some beliefs can be held only with ignorance.

        in the real world, not in your imagined world, socialist countries collapsed, and capitalist countries thrive.

        people's hard work and skills seem to be miraculously higher in capitalist societies. why is that? either a coincidence, or capitalism is needed for work and skill actually turning into goods.
    • Sep 17 2011: The free market is the main problem of poverty, because the big corporations like MC'Donalds pays a fucking wage for your employers and when they break, take people's money, like occured in USA in 2008, when the goverment gave trillions of dollars for wealthy people. It's important teach fish and no just give the fish, but when there is starve, believe, eat is priority.

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    Sep 12 2011: I'd say "it depends".

    If people will die before you can teach them how to grow appropriate crops, certainly it is right to give them food.

    The problem comes when the immediate crisis is over and no one bothers to do the follow up with the teaching, and then the cycle begins anew.
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      Sep 12 2011: I strongly agree that just donating money without creating knowledge about how to use it won't help. The key really is "empowerment for self-help": don't give people money, give them land and crops and show them how to grow them. I am also a big fan of micro-credits where people can come up with business ideas and will receive financial support to realize them. Does anyone know an organization for micro-credits one could support with a few dollars?

      I would also enjoy to support a godchild, as personal contact always fosters empathy... and there, you also know what your money is used for. In many cases, supporting one child even helps the whole neighborhood.
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      Sep 12 2011: I don't think that those people need more farmers. Planting crops and harvesting them is something as old as the pyramids... even older. What they need are educated man and women to lead the way and create democracy.
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        Sep 12 2011: You are right, a country needs educated men and women to lead it. Moreover, I don't think we want to say that the natives should be farmers and that clever people from industrialized countries should come and take care of the leading business. But still, how would this country be able to feed its children without a decent number of farmers and people who know how to treat the land to make it fertile?
  • Sep 12 2011: Humanitarianism (via donation) makes people feel good about themselves. It's debatable if the fraction of the donated monies that makes it through "administration costs" will actually help someone in the long run.

    Rarely can we change problems and help lives by throwing money at situations we do not care to understand.

    We can see more permanent change when more children go to school to become doctors, engineers or scientists.
  • Sep 17 2011: Humanitarianism is gone from your country and the U.S. as well.We fight amongst each other over National plans of government programs which we cannot fund.Government produces no wealth but only redistributes it from the poor to the rich.We need to rid the world of central banks and reclaim the obscene wealth they have defrauded us all of.It is best to trade in unincumbered markets .I have no euro to offer you.But I fight for your stolen gold.
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    Sep 17 2011: "In its most general form, humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings" (Wikipedia)

    I would donate money to an NGO (ie Unicef, Médecins Sans Frontières).

    As Ginawati Soepargi has mentioned, best way to help poverty is providing them education.
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    Sep 16 2011: The first thing is stop giving, and start lending..
    Giving is good. But it is one-sided interaction. We give something because we feel pity or because we care, but the truth is we don't really care that much. It's a self-delusional defense: when we give something, our mind stop thinking about the gift, because of our sincere feeling to the person we help. We stop thinking about what he will do with that gift (Money). Stop thinking about: is that gift making him a better person or not.
    We don't care, because we think it's their responsibility to use our gift wisely, while they think it's not their responsibility to tell us about what they're doing with that gift.
    This is very different from lending, or in another words: Micro-Financing. The two-ways interaction makes both sides, especially the "receiver", feel they have responsibility to update their relationship.
    There's interesting TED Talks about this issue (Poverty, Money, Love, and Micro-Financing):

    Another thing is education. Like many others said in this thread, there's huge different when we give (or lend) money to under-educated person and the well-educated one. The under-educated person probably spends the money in less than one day, while the well-educated one using their money wisely for their future growth.
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    Sep 16 2011: Yes, it is certainly better to help people feed themselves but I think it often takes humanitarian efforts to get the ball rolling and I am not sure that capitalism has all the answers. Selling women baby formula with propaganda that it is better for the baby is an example. It undermines so much that is already working and steals the future from these people. There will always be a need for charitable forms of thinking but it can grow, improve in tactics and learn to cross pollinate with ideas like entrepreneurial ventures of capitalism.
    It all starts with a little compassion and a practical vision for a better future.
    We do not have to think of it as humanitarianism or charity- we can think of it as helping to repair what was destroyed or crippled by bad policies of selfish interests in the past. I am just not convinced that just because a person or company got there first in the time continuum (they were born before the current generation) that they deserve to forever own all the resources of the earth. How is that just for all the coming generations? AS an illustration: We do not allow the person who gets to the dinner table first to eat everything and leave nothing for everyone else in a healthy family.
  • Sep 16 2011: As others have said in this discussion, only giving money won't do the magic. It will just make us feel better about ourselves, and the money is probably never gonna end in the hands of those really in need. Maybe natural disasters are the only situations where temporary humanitarian funds are really useful.

    But about the "Don't give a man fish, teach him to fish" philosophy, I have to say I really don't like it either. Because it implies that "We hold the truth", "You have to obey and do as we say", or "We teach and you shut up". Not to mention that if these countries have problems today, it's mostly because of us (modern countries) in the first place...

    I believe the solution is humility and compassion. Let us remember our childish curiosity! Let's be interested in their history, their art, their music, their culture and their feelings. Instead of always trying to teach others, let's sit at their feet and see what they can teach us! If we first establish this respectful relationship, the sane decisions are just going to stem out of this new environement by themselves, and we will all benefit from it.
  • Sep 16 2011: The problem is we keep giving them what they need, not teaching them how to get it. and until you take care of all the problems like theft and rape, the wont be able to provide for themselve. we need to teach and assist, not give and do
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    Sep 15 2011: If it does not, what does?

    However, let us be reminded that charity is not the mere action towards achieving humanitarianism. We can be humanitarian in many ways than one. But given with an excess of money, what better idea it is than to give half of it for the needy and half on how to propagate it so we can continue giving more.
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    Sep 15 2011: In My hunble opinion, education is the best way to change peoples from poor and poverty. Education not only from legal institution like school or university but also from short course that concern in the create a skilled human resource. It will presipitate a creativity and increase chance to work ang life quality.
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      Sep 16 2011: Sis. Ginawati , education is the best way at all but not for people who are in poverty and starvation . Did you know that they still dying despite all of these helps and I dont know humanitarianism ... the first priority is being alive
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    Sep 13 2011: I think it might be working a bit better than sadism.
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    Sep 12 2011: I think there are a number of dimensions to this.

    We have our national governments, who act on our behalf abroad. I, too, am sceptical as to whether governments go about things the right way. But, if we're honest, how many of us elect our governments based on their manifestos on helping other countries? We may take foreign policy into account, the quality of our kids' education, the access we have to healthcare, the taxation levels, access to employment and, dare I say it, defence play a larger role in our decisions than the fact that in other parts of the world, people are losing their homes or starving to death.

    Then we have the NGOs, who do amazing and valuable work, but often have far too limited resources and, often, access to help people who desperately need them. So they turn to us for support. Here, as you've mentioned, I'm sure conscience plays a role, but why shouldn't it? We should, I think, feel responsibility to help those in need. But equally, I think the way people choose to help depends just as much on practical factors. We can't always get to the people we want to help directly, nor can we always be the judge of what they really need. That's a kind of autonomy those people should have for themselves, and this is where education would play a huge role. So I think the fact that some of us donate, even though we aren't sure exactly how much it's helping, doesn't have to just be about conscience. It's just trying to help within the means available to us.
  • Sep 12 2011: Well yes and no. As long as someone has no resources to solve his/her own situation. Humanitarianism actions are only a relief. But not the whole solution. At the same time aid gets to the regions where is needed. Methods and techniques must be developed so this people can sustain themselves in the near future. The situation with Africa starts with the depletion of natural resources, climatic change, and tribal wars. Humans must understand that climate will change, that water will run short, that oil will run short one day maybe far or near to this time. And we must focus not in looking for new oil wells or water underground but on preserving what we have now and make a wise use of it. And share this new methods with the people of areas that are being hit by food shortage. Africa needs our hand and we must help. At the same time find another way to help them help themselves too. I see the situation in Africa as a warning to the rest of the world. Free market policies help reduce poverty yes. But we must teach and open the doors to people to join the free market policy.
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    Sep 12 2011: Basically, most of us want to help the poor. And we are doing something to help the impoverished. But, to be honest, the poor that are helped accounts only a little of all the needy, there is still a long way to go.
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    Sep 11 2011: I think it depends on which organization you support. I am a big fan of giving an Euro here and an Euro there to support non-profit organizations (there is a dedicated website where you can just do that: donate between $1 and $10 for non-profits which have been selected and approved beforehand), but only if I have the impression I can really trust this organization. I could of course also be wrong, but I think it has become harder for these organizations to "cheat".

    As for the value... wel, that also depends. I read a lot about initiatives imposing themselves upon African governments, just because they had money and because they WANTED! TO! HELP! NOW! without thinking about collaborating with existing African associations, so that help could really be delivered to where it is needed.

    My suggestion would be: look up the non-profit you want to support, find out as much as you can about them and then decide for yourself whether you think their approach is trustworthy and useful. I do think giving small amounts of money can make a change, because you are a good example for your peers by donating.