Before I went to live and work abroad in developing countries I had this quite common misconception about sharing: “If only the people in the richer countries would share more of their wealth with the poorer countries there would be enough for everyone.”

After years of experience in development work I don’t find this statement true anymore. What is the reason for starving and poverty in many developing countries? Sure, there is a lack of money in almost all areas of life for many necessary things. But will things really improve just by pouring out money for all kinds of well-intended projects? In many cases the ongoing needs in these countries are like a bottomless pit – there will never be enough money to satisfy the needs. It’s because the reasons behind the poverty have never been dealt with. The reasons behind the poverty in many developing countries are lying in the attitude of the people. A change of circumstances in these countries doesn’t last long if the attitude of the people doesn’t change; the attitude towards work performance, the attitude towards education, the attitude towards corruption – just to name a few.

Does this mean richer countries should not share their wealth with developing countries anymore? No, certainly not. Especially in times of humanitarian crises, essential needs must be met regardless of the attitude of the people in need. And despite humanitarian crises – despite relief projects – there is still enough room to help developing countries through sustainable development projects. But the way most development projects are implemented today needs to change. Efforts must change away from a guilt-driven approach by developed countries to outrace one another in spending the largest budget, towards projects that are building more human relationships: a teaching approach through learning by doing. This requires much more human resources from developed countries to pour out their lives into developing countries. But it is a much more effective way to change the situation in developing countries in a holistic way. When people change their attitude in developing countries to take ownership of their own fate things will finally improve. But as long as richer countries pour money into developing countries regardless of whether the local people take any responsibility for their situation or not, they demonstrate that it is the responsibility of the richer countries to improve the situation in the developing countries. This is not true and leaves people there to be immature. No longer paying money only to calm a bad conscience but instead help people in developing countries through personal involvement seems to be a much better approach to holistic sharing.