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Solidarity or Charity?

How do we see the world and the work that we do? Since the “International Day of Charity” is coming up on 5 September we (some interntaional volunteers to be) had a somewhat heated debate on this topic.

 

The United Nations have decided to celebrate charity on this day, to commemorate Mother Theresa. On their website, they write:

“Charity, like the notions of volunteerism and philanthropy, provides real social bonding and contributes to the creation of inclusive and more resilient societies.

Charity can alleviate the worst effects of humanitarian crises, supplement public services in health care, education, housing and child protection. It assists the advancement of culture, science, sports, and the protection of cultural and natural heritage.

It also promotes the rights of the marginalized and underprivileged and spreads the message of humanity in conflict situations.”

The role of “charity”

So, the UN recognises that in terms of development, governments cannot act alone and that social movements — through “volunteering & philanthropy” — plays an important role in bringing about positive change. According to the UN, this how civic movements can play an important part:

 

  1. Raise awareness about how difficult challenges are, and push for collective action in global issues.
  2. Enhance trust among diverse groups & build social capital.
  3. Eliminate societal & cultural barriers and create cohesion.
  4. Build resilience through community action, and enhance the sense of responsibility for one’s community.

This is all nice and commendable, but will “charity” bring about real change in our world?

That’s when the discussion started to heat up. “Charity doesn’t challenge the system – it only alleviates some of the symptoms instead of bringing about real change!” someone said.

We decided to dig a bit deeper and tried to make some definitions. Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer has spoken about it:

 

 

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”

 

So, is it OK to be good and do something to “help” someone out of the goodness of your heart? Isn’t it better to do something rather than nothing? Well, it depends how serious you are about equality, as it turns out.

 

A hard look at charity

In essence, charity is something you give to those ‘less fortunate than yourself’. This is the vertical part. From someone on top, handing down charity to someone who is at the bottom. It suggests the notion of a hierarchal system, an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.

It maintains a power relationship that reinforces economic inequality and ultimately systems of oppression.

 

Solidarity is horizontal

Solidarity, by contrast, takes a systems-change approach. Its foundational philosophy is that all relationships and power dynamics are multi-directional and acknowledges that everyone has wisdom and resources to solve problems.

This means a “shoulder to shoulder” ethics, solving problems together, on equal terms. No one is better than the other. We might come from different backgrounds and have different experiences that have shaped our world view – but as long as we understand this, being different is no problem. Together we can analyse and attack the problem. And change the system.

 

The differences between charity and solidarity

We came across Tim Wise, the anti-racist essayist and writer, who has created an interesting framework to understand the differences between solidarity and charity:

Who creates the problem?
Charity work is often based on the premise that marginalized people have some sort of deficit. Those who work in solidarity, on the other hand, understand that conditions of inequity are created by the dominant culture.

Who holds the knowledge?
Charity work flows from the premise that the giver has the expertise to decide both what the community needs and how to provide it. Solidarity work, however, assumes that the recipient community is in the best place to determine its own needs, and they have the right to determine how and when and if a service will be provided and by whom.

Where is the accountability?
Charity work turns accountability inward so that the organizations providing services are ultimately only accountable to themselves and their funders. Yet, solidarity work turns accountability outward so that served populations decide whether or not the work is beneficial.

 

Challenge assumptions & practice solidarity

A ‘solidarity over charity’ mind-set also means that we recognise our privileged positions – as people who can afford to study and travel – and use that privilege to stand in solidarity with those who need access to the same resources, rights and social justice.

Therefore, we need to think about how we think and behave as individuals and as team when we work on local or international settings, on events or projects. To listen. To take time to understand. To find ways to work together, even if it means we must change our habitual ways of doing things. To put our solidarity into practice in a respectful way.

We agreed to learn more about this issue. To be open to new ideas, challenge assumptions and call them out when we hear others having them. Not easy or comfortable, but not that scary once you understand that everyone else also have to grapple with the complex issues that arise when you want to be an international volunteer.

 

Global Justice and Solidarity Politics
A structured gap year can be just what you need.
Overcoming poverty is not a task for charity. It is an act of justice.

10 months structured volunteer experience

3 months:
Preparation – training, practical skills, teamwork, setting goals

6 months:
Project work – in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique or India

1 month:
Conclusion and information activities – reflection, bringing the good message out

What does it take to become a Take 10 Volunteer?

In order to enrol in the 10 month International Development Volunteer programme, you need to meet the following requirements:

    • You are 18 years old or older.
    • You are ready to leave your home for 10 months to volunteer in a community environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • You have decided not to drink alcohol or take drugs for the entirety of the program.
    • You are eager to experience a multidisciplinary and collective training programme, which includes theoretical and practical activities.
    • You are ready to immerse yourself in a multicultural and diverse community.
    • You are ready to volunteer where you are most needed.
    • You look forward to engaging with the Humana People to People projects in a spirit of cooperation, mutual learning and respect.
    • You are committed to learn about people, cultures, values and traditions, and to share your knowledge and stories with the public after your travels.
Charity or Solidarity? Global Justice and Solidarity Politics

Read more…

Preparation is key

Preparation is key

Examining your role as an international volunteer is important. Getting into listening & learning mode requires discussion & specialised training.

Solidarity Activism

Solidarity Activism

What does it mean to be a solidarity activist? Solidarity activism’s essence consists of fighting shoulder to shoulder with others to bring about positive change in the realms of equality, justice and prosperity.

Reflecting & Sharing

Reflecting & Sharing

Reflecting on your experience is an important aspect of any volunteer programme. It is highly valuable not only for you but also for others. What did you learn from reality?

5 Responsible Volunteering Tips

5 Responsible Volunteering Tips

Are you researching how to go about volunteering abroad in a responsible & ethical way? In this post we share some resources that we think could be useful for you – at least we hope so!

Advice from an ex-volunteer

Advice from an ex-volunteer

“Take your time. Prepare yourself. The longer, the better. Be realistic about your skills and use them wisely. And finally: Work with people. Solve problems shoulder to shoulder.”

Sustainability & volunteering

Sustainability & volunteering

Sustainability reflects “the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely”. A development project needs to ensure that all factors involved – environmental, social and economic – are in balance.

Solidarity or Charity?

Team Work: Global Justice and Solidarity Politics

How do we see the world and the work that we do? Since the “International Day of Charity” is coming up on 5 September we (some interntaional volunteers to be) had a somewhat heated debate on this topic.

 

Mother Theresa: Charity

The United Nations have decided to celebrate charity on this day, to commemorate Mother Theresa. On their website, they write:

“Charity, like the notions of volunteerism and philanthropy, provides real social bonding and contributes to the creation of inclusive and more resilient societies.

Charity can alleviate the worst effects of humanitarian crises, supplement public services in health care, education, housing and child protection. It assists the advancement of culture, science, sports, and the protection of cultural and natural heritage.

It also promotes the rights of the marginalized and underprivileged and spreads the message of humanity in conflict situations.”

United Nations in Action: Charity or solidarity?

So, the UN recognises that in terms of development, governments cannot act alone and that social movements — through “volunteering & philanthropy” — plays an important role in bringing about positive change. According to the UN, this how civic movements can play an important part:

  1. Raise awareness about how difficult challenges are, and push for collective action in global issues.
  2. Enhance trust among diverse groups & build social capital.
  3. Eliminate societal & cultural barriers and create cohesion.
  4. Build resilience through community action, and enhance the sense of responsibility for one’s community.
Teach Women Rights: Charity or solidarity?

This is all nice and commendable, but will “charity” bring about real change in our world?

That’s when the discussion started to heat up. “Charity doesn’t challenge the system – it only alleviates some of the symptoms instead of bringing about real change!” someone said.

We decided to dig a bit deeper and tried to make some definitions. Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer has spoken about it:

A structured gap year can be just what you need.

So, is it OK to be good and do something to “help” someone out of the goodness of your heart? Isn’t it better to do something rather than nothing? Well, it depends how serious you are about equality, as it turns out.

Teaching Out of School Children

Teaching out of school children

As a volunteer with Humana People to People in India, you can join school projects which aim to bring out of school children back to school.

A hard look at charity

In essence, charity is something you give to those ‘less fortunate than yourself’. This is the vertical part. From someone on top, handing down charity to someone who is at the bottom. It suggests the notion of a hierarchal system, an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.

It maintains a power relationship that reinforces economic inequality and ultimately systems of oppression.

 

Overcoming Poverty: Global Justice and Solidarity Politics

Solidarity is horizontal

Solidarity, by contrast, takes a systems-change approach. Its foundational philosophy is that all relationships and power dynamics are multi-directional and acknowledges that everyone has wisdom and resources to solve problems.

This means a “shoulder to shoulder” ethics, solving problems together, on equal terms. No one is better than the other. We might come from different backgrounds and have different experiences that have shaped our world view – but as long as we understand this, being different is no problem. Together we can analyse and attack the problem. And change the system.

A structured gap year can be just what you need: Solidarity in action.

We came across Tim Wise, the anti-racist essayist and writer, who has created an interesting framework to understand the differences between solidarity and charity:

Who creates the problem?

Charity work is often based on the premise that marginalized people have some sort of deficit. Those who work in solidarity, on the other hand, understand that conditions of inequity are created by the dominant culture.

Who holds the knowledge?

Charity work flows from the premise that the giver has the expertise to decide both what the community needs and how to provide it. Solidarity work, however, assumes that the recipient community is in the best place to determine its own needs, and they have the right to determine how and when and if a service will be provided and by whom.

Where is the accountability?

Charity work turns accountability inward so that the organizations providing services are ultimately only accountable to themselves and their funders. Yet, solidarity work turns accountability outward so that served populations decide whether or not the work is beneficial.

Therefore, we need to think about how we think and behave as individuals and as team when we work on local or international settings, on events or projects. To listen. To take time to understand. To find ways to work together, even if it means we must change our habitual ways of doing things. To put our solidarity into practice in a respectful way.

We agreed to learn more about this issue. To be open to new ideas, challenge assumptions and call them out when we hear others having them. Not easy or comfortable, but not that scary once you understand that everyone else also have to grapple with the complex issues that arise when you want to be an international volunteer.

A ‘solidarity over charity’ mind-set also means that we recognise our privileged positions – as people who can afford to study and travel – and use that privilege to stand in solidarity with those who need access to the same resources, rights and social justice.

What does it take to become a Take 10 Volunteer?

In order to enrol in the 10 month International Development Volunteer programme, you need to meet the following requirements:

    • You are 18 years old or older.
    • You are ready to leave your home for 10 months to volunteer in a community environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • You have decided not to drink alcohol or take drugs for the entirety of the program.
    • You are eager to experience a multidisciplinary and collective training programme, which includes theoretical and practical activities.
    • You are ready to immerse yourself in a multicultural and diverse community.
    • You are ready to volunteer where you are most needed.
    • You look forward to engaging with the Humana People to People projects in a spirit of cooperation, mutual learning and respect.
    • You are committed to learn about people, cultures, values and traditions, and to share your knowledge and stories with the public after your travels.
Solidarity or Charity?  Global Justice and Solidarity Politics are needed.
Preparation is key

Preparation is key

Examining your role as an international volunteer is important. Getting into listening & learning mode requires discussion & specialised training.

Solidarity Activism

Solidarity Activism

What does it mean to be a solidarity activist? Solidarity activism’s essence consists of fighting shoulder to shoulder with others to bring about positive change in the realms of equality, justice and prosperity.

Reflecting & Sharing

Reflecting & Sharing

Reflecting on your experience is an important aspect of any volunteer programme. It is highly valuable not only for you but also for others. What did you learn from reality?

Dear visitor


In these precarious times, we stay committed to extending our solidarity and support to marginalised communities who, once again, will bear the brunt of another worldwide crisis.

Right now, we are reassessing how we can do just that. We aim to start new teams in August. The world will need all good forces who are willing and able to do whatever is needed. Let’s unite and get to work as soon as possible.

Stay safe and best wishes!
The Take 10 Volunteer communications and admissions team