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Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dismissing aid for the helpless – It’s time to start documenting dreams!

In the UK and other developed countries we often find ourselves watching a small African child crying standing in a dusty, barren land whilst a softly spoken narrator informs us that without our help (and money) this child will remain helpless in poverty. This is often in an advert break in-between ads plugging British produce. I believe it is fair to say Western ideas of how to ‘help the helpless’ have been influenced by these fleeting public visions. Development in Ghana is very different from this stereotypical view and how it should be portrayed internationally should too be very different.

A typical image of poverty in the UK and other developing countries.

This warped view was highlighted last week when Jill and I began researching development documentaries. For one aspect of ‘Students For Schooling’ (S4S) we wish to promote the project through a documentary. We had the idea that this documentary should give a voice to all the people we hope the project reaches, as well as understanding what education and local community meant to these people.

Communities are important in Ghana. Something that our project desires to lock into, we wish for S4S to be owned by the school communities and strengthen these.  In doing this we wanted to document the key stakeholders and their thoughts at this early stage of S4S.

We found many videos showing the warped version of aid, almost suggesting that those who receive aid are nothing without it. The emphasis in these videos is often on the people who have donated the money.  In my mind the prominent idea to be taken from these videos is that people may live in poverty, but they are valuable members of society; not just helpless people in need of financial aid.

An advert, typical to be seen on TV in UK, which I feel makes communities sound hopeless without aid.

In the African continent, peoples’ opinion of international aid is split. Although there are benefits, people can also see the disadvantages if it is used incorrectly. In a growing city such as Tamale, the present of NGOs is predominant. In the same way I feel about the videos, it must be made sure that the emphasis of the NGOs is on sustainable projects which will ultimately lead to independent livelihoods for those who need it. After all, people who live in poverty have skills, knowledge and dreams. The platform on which they can show these should belong to them, not those giving aid. Documentaries on the internet have the potential to be watched all over the world. These videos should aim to breakdown the barriers of poverty and aid, not to reaffirm them.

It must be said that there are some amazing documentaries that do just that. In an awareness campaign our good friends at the Resource Centre have been playing a film documentary called ‘Emmanuel’s Gift’. The team at RAINS were invited to go and see the premiere showing of this inspirational film.

Trailer for Emmanuel's Gift - one documentary showing the achievements which can be made. 


‘Emmanuel’s Gift’ shows the impact that individuals with dreams, strength and beliefs can achieve, rather than financial aid and those that have given it. When you focus past the funding and on the people, it is then you see the moving lives of people whose dreams and skills can dramatically change their lives for the better. We just need more documentaries like this, which shows peoples and communities’ potential, no matter what their background. Through this we can move forwards and see development for what it can be. 

Lou