Because Helping Shouldn't Hurt: Four Reasons We Buy Aid Locally

If there's one consistent quality among those who make our work possible, it's generosity. This generosity takes many forms. Sometimes it's an offer to ship material goods overseas—food, books, clothing, even sewing machines. Anything to help those whose lives have been brutally disrupted by war.

We are always moved by these offers. But in distressed nations like Syria and Iraq, the single best way to help is to buy aid locally.

"Local" can mean different things depending on the situation, so what do we mean when we use the term? For a large food distribution in Iraq, "local" might refer to Baghdad or the nearest major city where we can negotiate the best wholesale prices. When installing water tanks in displacement camps, "local" could mean the nearest town or village where there's a tradesman who can take care of our needs as well as any foreign aid worker.

Why do we care so much about how aid is acquired? Here are 4 reasons why local matters:

1. It's safer.

When we look to respond to crises like those in Aleppo, Fallujah, and the Mosul corridor, buying aid locally allows us to avoid some of the risk of traveling through unstable areas with huge trucks. These big trucks are targets—we have to take extreme care in planning delivery routes.

2. Your investment goes farther.

Shipping, trucking, and labor cost money. We work hard to put as much nutrition onto each truck as possible, maximizing every dollar and every mile. By eliminating the need for long-distance shipping and by hiring affordable, local truck drivers, we are able to invest more of your donations into lifesaving food.

3. Cash donations build up the local economy, instead of destroying it.

Destroying local economies? Sounds a bit harsh, doesn't it? But in truth, sometimes one of the unintended impacts of global giving is the destruction of local economies that communities depend on. Often, the damage lasts long after aid groups leave.

Iraq has suffered an economic crisis for several years now. Syria has been crippled by years of civil war. If we take potential customers out of already fragile economies by providing "free" or subsidized goods from outside, local businesses feel the crush of unfair competition.

4. Buying locally allows us to provide better goods to those we serve.

The shortened time from purchase to delivery means fresher food. And by sourcing items like flour from local vendors, we are able to check for freshness on the spot, to make sure displaced families get the best food available, not something which may have gone rancid while sitting in the summer heat.

Buying locally gives local vendors the opportunity to be generous, too. We have seen many shop owners give discounts when they learn that we are purchasing for displaced families.

To look at it another way, when you donate cash, you allow us to purchase relief aid as close as possible to where it's needed. You build up communities in need, invest in local economies, support local families, and give the very best aid possible to displaced Iraqis.

We make sure your investment is multiplied as many times as possible. We work to build positive long-term change, and not foster dependence—to love in ways that truly help.

About Erin Wilson

Communications Officer for Preemptive Love Coalition, based in Iraq. Photographer + artist, storyteller + story gatherer, peace maker + bridge builder, student + teacher, unrepentant lover of unexpected beauty.

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Because Helping Shouldn't Hurt: Four Reasons We Buy Aid Locally
Because Helping Shouldn't Hurt: Four Reasons We Buy Aid Locally
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