Helping to dig ditches in a third world country - really?

  • Thread starter Borek
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After reading your opening post I think

  • you are right

    Votes: 17 65.4%
  • you are wrong

    Votes: 7 26.9%
  • you are stupid

    Votes: 2 7.7%

  • Total voters
    26
  • #1
Borek
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As it was posted on a Facebook it is not a secret I suppose. One of the forum staff members is at the moment digging ditches somewhere high in South America to help locals in construction work.

I have nothing against helping others, I admire the idea of helping locals in remote third world rural areas to build whatever their community needs - school, library, health center, anything.

I understand the idea of sending people there. Teachers, docs, nurses, instructors. I understand the idea of helping them build something, by funding materials, sending them an engineer that will look after the construction. That makes sense to me, I am ready to chip in.

But finding a sense in sending an IT pro over 6000 kilometers so that he can dig ditches - that's beyond me.

I am almost sure one of the few things locals can offer is unskilled labor force. Why don't hire them? Let them earn some money, buy what they need, feed their families? No, instead someone spends hundreds or thousands bucks to fly a guy to other continent so that the locals can make fun of him, as he is even more unskilled at digging than they are.

Wasted money if you ask me.

Edit: After some behind the scenes mail exchange I have learned my understanding of the situation was partially wrong. I was initially under impression trip and the work are paid for by the organizers, turns out it is paid for by the volunteers themselves. That slightly changes the perspective.

Still, I don't like the economy of the idea.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
DavidSnider
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I tend to agree from an economic perspective it does not make sense. However, I think there is some value in having wealthy Americans exposed to the reality of third world countries too.
 
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  • #3
Akaisora
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I think that IT pros, scientists, engineers...etc. should stick to doing something productive, as I don't see any value in helping third world countries; unless it is a long-term investment to turn the said countries into productive first world countries.

Digging ditches seems trivial, and I am not really an emotional person. So I will go with the "economical side".
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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Maybe it is a much for him as for them? He's learning perspective.
 
  • #5
WannabeNewton
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I think that IT pros, scientists, engineers...etc. should stick to doing something productive, as I don't see any value in helping third world countries; unless it is a long-term investment to turn the said countries into productive first world countries.

I love the kinds of things people say on the internet knowing they're protected by anonymity; it's quite sad really. Before you try to act all pragmatic, why don't you put yourselves in their shoes first? Put yourself in an impoverished state of life in a third world country and wait till I come and say the same thing to you and your struggling family k?
 
  • #6
jackmell
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As it was posted on a Facebook it is not a secret I suppose. One of the forum staff members is at the moment digging ditches somewhere high in South America to help locals in construction work.

Bet he's doing that for personal fulfillment Borek. It's not a practical matter for him although it is for the locals and I do not think they'll make fun of him although I'm no expert to South Americans. But I've heard lots: rather they'll respect him, invite him into their homes, with dirt floors they sweep I might add, and treat him like a guest and feed him with what little they have.

It's all a matter of what you value in life and helping this way has value, great value I am sure, to this person.

. . . I'll be waitin' for that dollar . . .
 
  • #7
AlephZero
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It a PF staff member can't contribute anything more to the project than physical labor, maybe they shouldn't be a PF staff member... :devil:

On the other hand, spending a vacation getting fit by digging ditches is marginally more useful than getting fit by climbing mountains, I suppose.
 
  • #8
jackmell
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It a PF staff member can't contribute anything more to the project than physical labor, maybe they shouldn't be a PF staff member... :devil:

Oh please, should it not be the contrary or do I do not have a clear conception of what the staffing requirements should be in here?

And for the record I voted "wrong" as I feel the "stupid" option is disrespectful to Borek.
 
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  • #9
Enigman
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I don't know...there are probably better ways he could help but at the end of the day its a matter of his/her personal choice...I think I agree with russ_watters but I don't disagree with you too, Borek. Pathos and logos are at conflict and I can't decide between them.
Perhaps there should be an option in the poll for 'I am stupid'...
(Not voting for now...)
 
  • #10
turbo
Gold Member
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I enjoy manual labor. Looking at the costs of getting myself down there to dig ditches, I would opt to use that money to help fund the project. We have high-profile people like Jimmy Carter framing up houses for charity, and that's a good thing because he is famous enough to draw attention to the cause. I am not famous, so the most effective way that I could contribute is to help fund Habitat for Humanity.
 
  • #11
Borek
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After some behind the scenes mail exchange I have learned my understanding of the situation was partially wrong. I was initially under impression trip and the work are paid for by the organizers, turns out it is paid for by the volunteers themselves. That slightly changes the perspective.

Still, I don't like the economy of the idea.

(adding that to the original post as well)
 
  • #12
OmCheeto
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My vote may be tainted by the fact that I know who it is, but I think not.

In every location I travel to, whether it be just going to the river, or traveling to a faraway place, I always look around, and ask myself; "What needs to be done?" Then I do it.[1]

I've dug two ditches in the last 10 years, as that was what was needed. I suppose if so-and-so is asked to upgrade their software, he'll do that too.

I've had spats, disagreements, and arguments, with every[2] staff member on this forum, except for this one. Perhaps we simply think too much alike.


[1]Argh! I just loaded the wash machine. Does anyone know if there is a hireanillegalalientodoyourlaundry.com type website?
[2]Yes. I even disagreed with LisaB once. :tongue2:
 
  • #13
Aero51
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Two words: Rich Guilt.
 
  • #14
Enigman
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One word: Conscience.
 
  • #15
Astronuc
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After some behind the scenes mail exchange I have learned my understanding of the situation was partially wrong. I was initially under impression trip and the work are paid for by the organizers, turns out it is paid for by the volunteers themselves. That slightly changes the perspective.

Still, I don't like the economy of the idea.

(adding that to the original post as well)
Such endeavors build goodwill among peoples. I like to visit clients for face-to-face interaction, rather than simply converse by email or phone. It does make a difference.

Such an activity allows for sharing meals before and after, and sharing entertainment, or just sharing quality time together.

There are many programs with which people can become involved.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/04/water-is-life/how-to-help

http://waterforpeople.org/ - programs improve drinking water in developing countries.

http://wateradvocates.org/ - promotes water availability, sanitation, and hygiene.

http://psi.org/ - involved in efforts against waterborne diseases.

http://globalwaterchallenge.org/ - a coalition working for access to clean water.

http://www.wateraidamerica.org/ - community-led water and sanitation programs in 26 developing countries.

A working vacation/holiday can actually be quite relaxing and spritually satsifying.
 
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  • #16
lisab
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My vote may be tainted by the fact that I know who it is, but I think not.

In every location I travel to, whether it be just going to the river, or traveling to a faraway place, I always look around, and ask myself; "What needs to be done?" Then I do it.[1]

I've dug two ditches in the last 10 years, as that was what was needed. I suppose if so-and-so is asked to upgrade their software, he'll do that too.

I've had spats, disagreements, and arguments, with every[2] staff member on this forum, except for this one. Perhaps we simply think too much alike.


[1]Argh! I just loaded the wash machine. Does anyone know if there is a hireanillegalalientodoyourlaundry.com type website?
[2]Yes. I even disagreed with LisaB once. :tongue2:

i was totally right, btw
 
  • #17
256bits
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After some behind the scenes mail exchange I have learned my understanding of the situation was partially wrong. I was initially under impression trip and the work are paid for by the organizers, turns out it is paid for by the volunteers themselves. That slightly changes the perspective.

Still, I don't like the economy of the idea.

(adding that to the original post as well)

First world economics do not apply.

If the individual took a plane trip to a fun in the sun destination the same upfront cost of transportation and perhaps lodging and food would apply. So that cost is irrelevant to the enterprise. Rather than have the funds for food and lodging going into the pockets of some congomlerate, it is instead being spent most likely in the immediate area - a benefit for the locals.

Manual labour can be done by anyone and I admire the guy`s or gal`s decision to do what most people would not think of doing - that of getting their hands dirty.

If payment is rendered it would be at local going rates of perhaps pennies a day and if not then the project is free, another benefit for the locals on a project they probably cannot afford.
Being on equal par with everyone else in spite of education and wealth is probably a relief from the wayward politics of back home.

If anything, I would question the organization`s choice of project before any individuals`s participation. Such questions such as `Do the locals really need a ditch?` might lend some insight into how a ditch, for a road, would aid the locals in getting products to market and offer a lifline to resources available in other centres.

I will not vote since I do not think the situation has been fully developed for a complete understanding.
 
  • #18
OmCheeto
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Sorry about the cross threading, but maybe so-and-so, is just pretending to be a federal worker:

Astro's link from the shutdown thread said:
Anne Lucas, a chemist for the Food and Drug Administration in Maryland who has been on furlough, said she was not worried about her finances but was unhappy to be idle so long. “We all just want to get back to work,” she said. “Most federal workers are not there for the money, they’re there for the service.”

She has been volunteering at a nature center, where she is assigned to pick up trash, a task she said was preferable to doing nothing. “Just because I have a Ph.D. doesn’t mean I’m too good to pick up trash,” she said.
 
  • #19
Enigman
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307
Sorry about the cross threading, but maybe so-and-so, is just pretending to be a federal worker:


Well, the story checks out so far:
there is an Anne Lucas from Maryland working for the FDA and she is a Ph.d.
http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne_Lucas2/ [Broken]
Don't know about the trash though...
:biggrin:
 
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  • #20
consciousness
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The man was probably helping to clear up his own conscience. Borek was right when he pointed out that the man wasn't helping much, but he wasn't aiming for that. The whole thing was just "Meh".
 
  • #21
SteamKing
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That's the problem. Highly skilled IT person from America goes to Third World country to dig a ditch. If I want a ditch dug here in the US of A, I've got to hire someone from the Third World to dig it. Why can't we dig our own damn ditches?
 
  • #22
256bits
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As long as he has his accredited ditch digging certification card that would be OK. Construction union rules just might prevent just anyone off the street from doing the job of a professional ditch digger. Ha.
 
  • #23
Averagesupernova
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Some of the posts in this thread sicken me. If a guy wants to dig a ditch on his own dime why not let him? Put THIS in perspective: Suppose the guy flies someplace and relaxes on a beach doing nothing. I am guessing no one here would have a problem with that. How is the 'economy' of that idea?
 
  • #24
OmCheeto
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Well, the story checks out so far:
there is an Anne Lucas from Maryland working for the FDA and she is a Ph.d.
http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne_Lucas2/ [Broken]
Don't know about the trash though...
:biggrin:

I probably should have provided the link to the article.
 
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  • #25
Stephen Tashi
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But finding a sense in sending an IT pro over 6000 kilometers so that he can dig ditches - that's beyond me.

Digging a shallow haphazard trench doesn't require much thought, but it digging a long deep ditch that has to drain properly requires some skill. In the USA, digging a ditch "to code" means shoring the sides of it when it is above waste high.
 
  • #26
Hornbein
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After some behind the scenes mail exchange I have learned my understanding of the situation was partially wrong. I was initially under impression trip and the work are paid for by the organizers, turns out it is paid for by the volunteers themselves. That slightly changes the perspective.

Still, I don't like the economy of the idea.

(adding that to the original post as well)

Westerners often pay substantial sums to volunteer for projects like this. That is, someone may pay as much to live in a dorm, eat beans, and dig ditches as they would for a comfortable beachside vacation.
 
  • #27
SteamKing
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Westerners often pay substantial sums to volunteer for projects like this. That is, someone may pay as much to live in a dorm, eat beans, and dig ditches as they would for a comfortable beachside vacation.

Imagine! Paying someone so you can dig a ditch! Only in America.
 
  • #28
HayleySarg
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I'd do it, but I'm nuts!

So perhaps there is some flawed judgement on this part. I'm all about helping, and nothing is below me. I do think it's a bit lame that the expenses for living/travel were paid by the volunteer. But I just like helping overall, and doing something is always preferable to nothing. I'm also young and in fairly good health. I've dug a few ditches myself, and it's not too bad depending on the heat.

I am a bit of a wuss for heat.

Edit to add: Yes, I think the funds could have done so much more. Probably just really terrible planning and budgeting.
 
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  • #29
Ryan_m_b
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I've done similar things in the past travelling to countries to volunteer my time with whatever they need. Can't say I've dug any ditches and I agree that in many cases donating the money of the ticket and other expenses to pay a local would be better however most volunteering projects require a donation and I think more people are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars in one go and see first hand what that money does than those willing to do it from their armchair.
 
  • #30
Pythagorean
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I don't think the experience is limited to digging ditches. They can still teach when they're not working, get an idea of the general need for aid, become familiar with involved aid groups, build positive relationships that lead to more in-depth aid later, build relationships and perspectives between two nations. It's like an aid internship.
 
  • #31
berkeman
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I know several people who volunteer to help build family houses in Mexico each year, and I'm familiar with medical folks who volunteer to help provide medical diagnosis and treatment on trips in 3rd world countries. Those make sense to me, because you have a special skill that may not be present very much in the areas that you are volunteering in. I think such volunteer work is very admirable.

But I tend to agree that digging ditches does not make sense, unless you just want to immerse yourself in a culture to see what is like, and there are no other skilled things that you can do that would help more.

(Hope I don't get fired as a Mentor for saying that...)
 
  • #32
OmCheeto
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As it was posted on a Facebook it is not a secret I suppose. One of the forum staff members is at the moment digging ditches somewhere high in South America to help locals in construction work.
...

I don't think he/she is high. I think it's a cultural thing.

In North America, we've been brainwashed into thinking "walking", will solve things. Do you have anything equivalent to the "March of Dimes", in Poland?
 
  • #33
berkeman
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I don't think he/she is high. I think it's a cultural thing.

:rofl:
 
  • #34
edward
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Years ago I went on a trip to a Mexican village with a group of fellow do-gooders to help rebuild after a severe storm. It was only about 70 miles south of the border and we went down from Tucson AZ. About noon of the third day we headed home.

About twenty miles up the road we came to an irrigation canal that ran parallel to the road. We were all hot smelly and that water really looked inviting. After a pleasant dip we were back in the van and on the road again. We only got about a quarter of a mile when we noticed women who appeared to be washing out poopy diapers in the canal.

We got in a bit of a discussion about which way the water in the canal was flowing so we stopped to check. It was the wrong direction.:eek:

One of the guys tried to explain to the women about the sanitation aspect. They said not to worry, they wash their clothes first, then the poopy diapers.
 
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  • #35
SteamKing
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Montezuma's revenge comes in many forms: some obvious, some not so obvious.
 
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