My birthday was yesterday… so I figured it was a particularly appropriate time to talk about a concept I’m sure many of you can relate to—SWEDOW. SWEDOW stands for Stuff WE DOn’t Want. You have likely not only received SWEDOW on your birthdays, but have also been guilty of giving it away via re-gifting or through “charitable donations”. One epic birthday, I received a stained bathrobe and half burned candle from a relative who will remain nameless (and no, she didn’t hate me, it was just her way). This year, I was lucky enough not to have received any SWEDOW on my birthday—thank you family and friends!
Unfortunately Haiti, like many developing countries, can’t avoid the unending influx of SWEDOW. It is a veritable dumping ground for the Western world’s crap. That’s right, crap. I know—I’ve seen the SWEDOW first hand. Merchants sell our “charitable donations” for a profit on the streets and in the market places of Haiti (this is not how it was intended to be!). Our unwanted, stained, and stinky G.A.P. and Old Navy toss aways are clogging the marketplace.
But Bridget, you may say, the people of Haiti need these items! They need old shoes and unwanted clothing, broken toys and winter wear! In response, I would point out that there are textile factories in Haiti that can produce these wares (minus the winter wear) and provide life-saving jobs to people who desperately need them. SWEDOW kills the job market, it kills production, and it perpetuates an unnecessary dependence on others.
Not only that… let’s talk about respect and dignity for a moment. If you wouldn’t wear it… don’t make the assumption that it’s reasonable for someone else to want to wear it too. The people of Haiti have A LOT of personal pride about their appearance (they are better dressed than any relief worker I encountered), so to assume that they would naturally want to wear something that was stained or dirty is beyond insulting.
We wonder why the Haitian people haven’t made more progress in the year + post-earthquake . . . we are in part to blame. Our “charitable giving” of crap we don’t want makes us feel good about ourselves, but it is bad for the long term recovery of Haiti. If you want to help, resist the urge to clean out your closet. Instead, make an unrestricted donation of money to an organization you know and trust.
When it comes to SWEDOW, like drugs, just say no!