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Both are words used when you help, both are liberal concepts and both are concepts used in volunteers daily life, especially when you do something for someone with different life opportunities than you. They may seem the same but they are not, so how about we begin by defining each one and then we explain their differences? Let’s begin with Charity versus Solidarity.
Its definition is a generous action or donation to aid the poor, ill or helpless (Thesaurus.com). It has to do with money, food, or other kind of help you give to someone else, for example, material things. Like when you donate your old clothes or you cook for the homeless.
Instead of material things, it’s a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests and goal; it can also be understood as a unity or a group that produces or is based on community’s interests, objectives and standards (Merriam-webster.com).
Both words refer to helping but in different ways, so let’s assume you donate your old clothes to a homeless shelter, you also donate your time and you do it gladly, because you really want to. Then you are helping with charity and solidarity at the same time.
We don’t have the intention to create a fight between people who do charity and solidarity but, maybe just giving away money isn’t enough. Actually doing acts of solidarity contains both: donating money, working side by side, helping people and even more doing it with responsibility, feeling and purpose.
The famous Latin American writer, Eduardo Galeano, used to say: “I don’t believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical; it goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal, it respects the other person, and I have a lot to learn from other people”.
Even though both are philosophies of the liberalism, they are very different.
Do you love to travel? Are you an adventurous person? Do you like to donate money and forget about it or do you like to see what organizations are making with that? Then maybe you should start doing solidarity tourism.
What is this? It is promoting real life changing experiences that allow persons to build relationships and unbreakable bonds, creating cultural exchanges that include values, knowledge, cultural practices, cosmogony, lifestyle and nature. It is traveling overseas, working with a vulnerable community and developing sustainable projects that benefit the local inhabitants.
When you help you get a lot of benefits that go from being happy, to actually helping, reducing stress, continue learning and having a better health. These happens because you meet incredible people, work with a purpose and have the opportunity of seeing and visiting new places that you would have never imagine traveling to in any other situation.
Where can you do it?
Maybe the first place that came to your mind was Africa, and it is very logic, but how about you travel somewhere else? Maybe you could make a trip to Latin America or Asia. Just to give an example in Latin America, a country like Guatemala is the perfect place, more than half of the population lives in poverty conditions and there are a lot of NGOs that promote change through working with local inhabitants and having cultural exchanges, look for the type of project you would like to work in and do it!
So what do you prefer, charity or solidarity? Both are great ways to help, but maybe you could get a little more involved in changing the world.