BY MYLES FISH
Giving to help those in need around the world should be looked at as an investment, not charity.
That was the message of Eric Rajah, co-founder of Lacombe-based A Better World to Red Deer Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Lunch attendees on Wednesday.
Being engaged in the giving process is more satisfying and rewarding, he said.
“Investment requires involvement. If you invest in the stock market, I’m sure you don’t wake up 12 months later and say, ‘Oh, I hope my investment has done well.’
“I look at the work we do much like an investment company — following the money, looking at the project,” said Rajah.
A Better World was founded in 1990 by Rajah and a friend, with $5,000 committed to the project. Today, the local international development agency has funded millions of dollars worth of projects in impoverished countries the world over.
Rajah spoke on Wednesday about the work Central Albertans have done in partnership with A Better World.
Years ago, Rajah saw disabled Kenyan girls crawling to school and thought the children could not be further helped, because money had already been given through charity. But then locals suggested their expertise could provide wheelchairs for the girls.
“Money alone cannot solve the problems of the world,” said Rajah, “Skills and training is necessary.”
Another success story came from Rajah’s wonderment that people in Africa would ask for food from Alberta, where there is but one growing season a year.
When he was asked to find 100 people to provide $30 a month to feed children in an orphanage, Rajah instead enlisted local help and got the orphanage to grow its own food.
“This is a return on investment. I want children to eat their own food with dignity instead of depending on us every month for $30,” he said.
A Better World organizes a number of trips overseas every year so that donors can see and work on projects first-hand — 2,500 volunteers have made such trips in the organization’s history.
He said he hopes more people will take the opportunity to enlist their time and skills to benefit those less fortunate around the world.