Here it is. As promised on Twitter just a few days ago, “The Best in #SWEDOW.” Bad aid ideas dreamed up by people who are probably nice enough… but would also appear to be somewhat clueless.
Although the original idea was for this to be a contest, it soon became clear that it would be hard to decide on the very best criteria for determining a winner. In the end, I went with a long list of very honorable mentions in different categories, with one strong personal favorite at the end.
To be considered in this post, nominations had to meet at least the following criteria:
1) Had to be an actual organization, charity or project (no parodies – sorry 1 Million Kittens for Africa).
2) Had to be exclusively or predominantly GIK (gift-in-kind). Something about excess stuff needing someone to need it.
3) Primary focus had to be geographically outside of the country where the organization, charity, or project is based. Local food banks, collecting clothing for local distribution, or the US Marine Corps “Toys For Tots” programs were not considered.
4) And of course, the very best #SWEDOW is used #SWEDOW. Or as they write on the price tags of previously-owned motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson dealership near my house, “already been loved…”
All of the links shared here were tweeted with the #SWEDOW tag sometime within the last week. I’m providing source attribution as accurately as I can. Please don’t fill the comments thread with grumpiness if I’ve attributed the wrong person. It’s all good. I love you all equally.
* * * * *
As I considered the many excellent nominations, I was struck by what feels like… racism of the #SWEDOW industry: It is almost all for AFRICA. I mean, don’t they need used shoes or knickers in other places, too? There are a few #SWEDOW organizations that focus on multiple regions of the world, and I even found one that focuses exclusively on Central Asia – Afghanistan, to be specific – but the vast majority of #SWEDOW goes to one lone continent. That seems somewhat unfair to me. But perhaps the urgent need for life-saving #SWEDOW from Cairo to Conakry to Cape Verde to Cape Town is so great that focusing on Africa for now is appropriate: bra-less women and flip-flop-less kids in Asia, South America and some suburbs of Seattle will just have to wait their turns.
With that, here are The Best in #SWEDOW:
PETA: Feel pious and send your discarded furs to a place that gets seriously cold in the winter. (from @gentlemandad)
Veganism & Vegetarianism For Africa (From @KeshetBachan) Always good to see really practical, solid out-of-the-box thinking from the non-aid sector. One of many excellent “cultural #SWEDOW” nominations.
Little Dresses for Africa (from @ithorpe) Horrified at the sight of small African children wearing “Reba McEntire” T-shirts? There IS an alternative: help them look like they’re from “The Sound of Music” instead!
Shoe Aid For Africa (From @mforstater)
Donate Your Old Shoes (from @Katrinskaya)
These two (above) are actually pretty self-explanatory: Africans have no shoes. You’ve been eyeing those lavender over-the-calf faux-zebra-skin stilettos at Nordstrom Rack, but feel guilty because your closet is already too full… there’s a total “win-win” here…
Flip-Flops for Africa (from @meowtree) This one is actually the brainchild of a Nigerian person living in the United States. Additional evidence for my earlier thesis that Diaspora are every bit as capable of thinking total #SWEDOW projects as anyone else.
SEND UNWANTED CLOTHES TO AFRICA (@civoknu) Same basic concept as “Donate Your Old Shoes.” The comments section is particularly… er.. special.
Knickers 4 Africa (from @BSKyambadde) In some countries you can have your used undies shrink-wrapped and then sold to collectors for big money. But not these humanitarians: they’re giving up all of that profit in order to meet an urgent need in… wait for it… AFRICA!
Hands to Hearts (from @alanna_shaikh) A solid option for those unimpressed with Knickers 4 Africa’s professionalism. Plus, they’ve received and some fabulous coverage for them in the PuffHo – “Bras without Borders” – a cutting edge program in which they prove that they’re specialists, not #SWEDOW generalists, by focusing specifically on Uganda, rather the whole “Heart of Darkness”
Wedding Dresses for – where else? – AFRICA (from @solarafrica)
Afghans For Afghans (from @civonku) This cleverly-named charity is “innovating” in the #SWEDOW sector by selecting geographic focus exclusively outside of Africa.
Kids Make Quilts for Haiti (from @cynan_sez) Another great “Out of Africa” option. One of the benefits with this particular scheme is that there is an integrated component of “child labor” (improves likelihood of sustainability).
And my personal favorite…
Hearts to Africa (from @shoesfromthhood)
Check out the website: These guys not only ship your used stuff, but they’ll take a cash donation to help offset the cost of shipping and handling. If you don’t get a warm enough feeling from sending stuff + a cheque, you can actually go to Africa yourself and watch the eyes of a small child light up as you hand over some #SWEDOW.
One huge benefit of supporting this organization is that none of your donation will be wasted on any kind of community assessment, surveys, evaluations, or coordination: they open the box or barrel or whatever in more or less any old community and hand the stuff out randomly. NGOs just make aid so complicated, when it really doesn’t have to be…
* * *
That’s it for today. I’m thinking that I might make The Best in #SWEDOW a regular on this blog. Please continue to tweet your nominations with the #SWEDOW tag. And if you have not done so already, be sure to read the original #SWEDOW post.