Our Commitment to 'Non Toxic' Charity

How do our Build Projects help and not hinder local communities?       

Urban Saints' Build Projects endorse The Oath for Compassionate Service as outlined by Robert Lupton in his book Toxic Charity. It outlines six key factors when working overseas in areas of poverty.

  1. Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
  2. Limit one‐way giving to emergency situations.
  3. Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
  4. Subordinate self‐interests to the needs of those being served.
  5. Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said – unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.
  6. Above all, do no harm.

Click here to find ‘Toxic Charity’ on Amazon 

Popular Criticisms of some charitable efforts are:

  • It does long term harm to the beneficiaries
  • It is all about the mission we want to do to people
  • It does not listen and learn, assumes superiority
  • It tackles effects rather than causes

Our US Partners, Amor Ministries, have completed more than 35 years of continual development in the field of short term mission, and linking to them is a vital element to authentic altruism. Without them we remain novices and liable to cause as much harm as good. Their approach includes:

  • Families are linked into the local church rather than Amor for ongoing support
  • Decisions are made by empowered locals
  • Families have to contribute to the process and own land
  • Local employment is arranged where possible
  • Local suppliers are used

Amor Ministries has commissioned long term impact studies on the Mexican and South African communities into which they have worked and these studies consistently prove a positive long term impact over decades.

In addition to being effective in appropriately delivering humanitarian aid into chronic difficulties, Amor Ministries has handled our participants brilliantly and done good to them in both the short and the long term. We are proud to partner with them.

‘Would it not be better to just send money, rather than take young people to Mexico & South Africa?’

There are probably three main answers…

How much interest would there be in the UK for a housing charity collecting money for Mexico house building by unknown Mexicans? People are always much more interested in something when they personally know and trust whoever is directly involved. A fictitious alternative sounds good in theory but the fact is, none exist because nobody would help them. Direct action by Christians via Amor trips has built more than 18000 homes so far.

A Build Project trip exposes young people to poverty. They get to meet the family they help, work alongside them, and see with their own eyes the difference they have made, listen to the family’s tearful gratitude, and totally understand what they did. The formative elements of this are absolutely incredible and the impact on the life of the young person concerned profound.

In straight financial terms, a young person who understands poverty on the level that exposure through our Build Projects facilitates is likely to radically amend their values and principles for giving. In a typical working life of a young adult, 50 earning years lie ahead. It is highly likely that they will give at least £100.00 per year more to poverty alleviation. The cost of going on a Build Project would in this model be outweighed 5:1 in charitable giving elsewhere. Of course straight finance to humanitarian projects is not the only success measure by any means. We have already seen many young people and trip leaders make decisions to give their lives and careers to serving the poor following these trips.

Together with Amor, we provide sensibly run, accessible humanitarian mission projects which aim for the following outcomes:

1. Transformation of the lives of the participants.

2. Release from inadequate housing for families trapped by poverty.

3. Sustainable outreach mission by the church in Mexico: 

  • The Mexican Pastors’ committees work together across the city of Tijuana to assess where and for whom houses should be built, according to set assessment criteria, for which they have been adequately trained.
  • The Mexican churches work with the families to produce budgetary skills which in turn facilitate their ability to purchase land.
  • Ongoing support to the family for other aspects of their escape from poverty continue to be delivered through the church for many years after the house is built.

4. Similar sustainable outreach mission from a range of churches around Delmas and Botleng (the township area of Delmas), South Africa (as above in the case of Mexico).

5. Raising awareness and engagement with issues of segregation, tribalism and prejudice within communities - as well as the long-term impact of HIV and AIDS. (South Africa only)