9. Giving one percent: Why foreign aid is not hurting the United States

Author: Lauryl Fischer, Sophomore

In a recent poll, 33 percent of U.S. citizens said our country should no longer lend aid to other countries and should instead focus on domestic issues.  As a student participating in Project Pericles at Elon University, my mission directly contradicts this 33 percent.  As a Periclean, I have committed to lending my privilege, opportunity, time and money to Honduras, our country of focus, as my peers and I partner with Honduran citizens within the country over the next three years. Thirty-three percent of U.S. citizens say we shouldn’t bother—that funding for programs like mine should be cut—but Elon has taught me that becoming a globally-engaged citizen is important, not only to those in need, but to myself and my country.
First, let’s talk money, using Honduras as our example.  A country’s economic prosperity relies largely on its ability to produce goods and services. The more productive a country is able to be, the larger its gross domestic product (GDP).  For Honduras, government corruption, widespread poverty, gang violence and drug trafficking hinder productivity; one solution for Honduras is relying on foreign partners to make investments in its economy. 
Investing or partnering with businesses overseas will help these businesses expand, create jobs, and increase profit in that country. And if Honduras becomes a stable economy, the United States can benefit from Honduras’ resources, decrease foreign aid over time, and slow the current growing rate of migration of Hondurans to the United States. Put in its simplest terms, it’s a domino effect: we help Honduras grow, then Honduras helps us to increase its profits and our own—and that’s the beauty of capitalism.
Without providing any kind of aid to Honduras (or developing countries like it), Honduras is stuck in a vicious cycle, where roughly 40 percent of children drop out of school to join gangs, where these gangs suppress the population, terrorize the media and traffic drugs, and the homicide rate (at 17 deaths per day in the capital, Tegucigalpa, according to the U.S. Government and State Department), government corruption index and poverty rate all climb higher. Honduras is reduced from a country rich in resources and culture to a collection of miserable statistics.  Drugs like cocaine and heroine make their way across American borders. Its citizens lose hope in their country and flee here to America where they “steal our jobs.”  Sure—these problems will not be entirely solved through foreign aid.  But a successful business created in a developing country will provide innumerous benefits, economically and socially, to the people working for and affected by that business. 
In the end, supporting foreign aid or programs like Project Pericles, at the very least, provides an educational paradigm of real world experience to volunteers, exposes them to a new culture, and teaches them new languages and how to design effective, sustainable business models. These are the kinds of experiences that volunteers can take back with them to the United States, that students cannot find in a textbook, and that will enrich the United State’s own private and public sector. 
This isn’t an issue of  “us versus them.” We can and should help both countries like Honduras and our own country.  It can be as easy as supporting programs like Project Pericles, participating in microfinance initiative on sites like kiva.org, where 99 percent of all loans are paid back, or showing our government we want to continue to support foreign aid.  Right now, less than one percent of the United States’ budget goes to foreign aid. Considering the lives made better, the students educated, the connections made and the lessons learned, it’s a one percent we can afford to spend. 

Works Cited:
"Honduras." U.S. Department of State: Diplomacy in Action. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec
2013. <http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/ho/>.

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