I went to an expat event today, a picnic-type party at a little country farm-restaurant a short way out of town. I was familiar with one friend’s dedication to an organization with a mission to create literacy and a way out of poverty for young Ecuadorian mothers. She introduced me to another friend of hers who is organizing a chapter of a group which brings students in tech fields to developing countries to help solve issues which hold them back from developing their potential. While we were talking, another expat stopped by our table, introduced himself, and told us about the project he is running to create a temporary lodging for poor rural HIV patients and their families to stay in when they visit our city for monthly medical appointments.

It is inspiring to see how many of my North American compatriots, who could easily have just moved here and relaxed and enjoyed an easy life in retirement, are motivated to do what they can to help the poor of this developing nation which has welcomed us as guests and residents. It is exciting how much they can accomplish here, where the act of helping others has not been regulated out of existence by a professional class of bureaucratic helpers as it has back home. It is heartening to hear them discuss their methods of asking the poor what they can do to help, and how it would work for them. This is in counterpoint to the all-too-common foreign-aid model of imposing programs from “above” to improve their lives in ways which may not work, or if they do work, may not be an improvement at all.

The help needed is urgent and real. Providing it is not without its challenges. But when those challenges are overcome, the joy and satisfaction it brings to the hearts of the helpers is celestial.

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