There have been lots of interesting comments about the ‘Living with the Guilt’ post of a few days ago. It’s a tricky subject and I don’t have any answers, but I agree with ‘Nutty Cow’ that making your own staff a priority, paying as much as you can in salaries and then you take requests for extra help each time on its individual merits. Also, in our experience giving ‘loans’ when asked, then not being paid back a cent is a common problem when you are not directly employing someone and drawing cash for their salaries yourself. As long as you are aware of this when you hand the money over, it’s easier to live with.
After nine years of living in East Africa, coping with the feelings of guilt has definitely not become easier. I don’t want to become so hardened to life that I am comfortable blanking out all the appeals for help that you are hit with every day and the desperate situations that you could afford to help a little with. Perhaps if you live here all your life, you do end up only helping the people that you employ where possible – even just providing employment is a considerable contribution. If you employ a large number of people, just think how many those salaries will be benefiting when unemployment is such a huge problem here? Expats who do not become emotionally involved and leave the country after a short posting without arranging future employment for their staff are irresponsible and thoughtless because falling out of the employment loop can have tragic consequences. Hopefully this does not happen too often. Most people I know go out of their way to secure jobs for everyone they employ before they leave town, however the new employment does not always work out and then there are frantic texts sent round to find a new position for the person in question.
Having said all that; I don’t want to become a total sucker to every sob story either, especially when you see one hawker trying the same old stories on other harassed housewives day after day. I think that ‘Ben’ hit the nail on the head saying that living here (or indeed anywhere in the developing world) means that you have to face many more tough decisions on a regular basis than perhaps you do in the West. It was interesting that he feels that as a Kenyan he has been ‘softened’ by years of living in the UK. I was also interested to read about Jennifer’s similar experiences in India, who said she ended up spending twice the amount of money than her college mates because of being asked more frequently to give handouts than the local students were.
To sum up (and for fear of rambling on) I guess that dealing with guilt is another part of the puzzle that is living in the developing world.
P.s. Talking of puzzles, the plumbing adventures in the kitchen are continuing apace – new post to follow!