One of the criticisms of development work — that is, when money from the US funds projects in needy places like Sri Lanka — is that it creates a “culture of dependency.” Not unlike the knock on welfare and food stamps, the theory goes that foreign money will only teach the lesson that there’s always more coming, thus there’s no reason to learn a trade, plant a field, or otherwise provide for your family.
As progressive as I am on many issues, I actually agree with this criticism. It worries me, both in the States and in the Third World, that we send money to places that need it, but little else. We don’t spend the time teaching the skills needed to make an entire economy more sustainable.
So it was really intriguing to me that on this trip to Sri Lanka, we witnessed World Vision’s last day in a village. It seems — and this was news to me — that WV has a 15-year limit on how long it will work in an Area Development Project (ADP). Thus, from day one in an area, the staff is challenged to partner with local organizations, to teach skills, and to prepare for the hand-off a decade-and-a-half hence.