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

  1. you are right

    17 vote(s)
  2. you are wrong

    7 vote(s)
  3. you are stupid

    2 vote(s)
  1. Oct 12, 2013 #1


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    Staff: Mentor

    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.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2013 #2


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    Gold Member

    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.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  4. Oct 12, 2013 #3


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    Gold Member

    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".
  5. Oct 12, 2013 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Maybe it is a much for him as for them? He's learning perspective.
  6. Oct 12, 2013 #5


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    Science Advisor

    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?
  7. Oct 12, 2013 #6
    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 . . .
  8. Oct 12, 2013 #7


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    Homework Helper

    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.
  9. Oct 12, 2013 #8
    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.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  10. Oct 12, 2013 #9
    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...)
  11. Oct 12, 2013 #10


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    Gold Member

    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.
  12. Oct 12, 2013 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    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)
  13. Oct 12, 2013 #12


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    Gold Member

    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:
  14. Oct 12, 2013 #13
    Two words: Rich Guilt.
  15. Oct 12, 2013 #14
    One word: Conscience.
  16. Oct 12, 2013 #15


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    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://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.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  17. Oct 12, 2013 #16


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    Gold Member

    i was totally right, btw
  18. Oct 12, 2013 #17
    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.
  19. Oct 12, 2013 #18


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    Gold Member

    Sorry about the cross threading, but maybe so-and-so, is just pretending to be a federal worker:

  20. Oct 13, 2013 #19

    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...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  21. Oct 13, 2013 #20
    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".
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