Toms Had It Wrong | Why We Don't Buy One Give One

Toms Had It Wrong | Why We Don't Buy One Give One

When we first started b.a.r.e. soaps, we were naïve on so many levels. We had a simplistic idea on the non-profit front, but didn’t anticipate how difficult executing the non-profit portion would be. We thought it would be as easy as doing a buy one, give one model. However, after careful thought, we realized we wanted to go beyond an immediate short-term impact.  We’re in for the long-haul and we want to invest in long term self-sustainable efforts. Not many current social enterprises do this.

Why the Buy One Give One Model Hurts

You see it everywhere now, "Buy One Give One".  It provides immediate gratification to the consumer for doing something good, yet consumers do not realize how detrimentally harmful the buy one give one model is. The model, if not carefully thought out (including detailed research on the area where the donation is being provided), can potentially take away economic and job opportunities locally. It also creates an expectation of hand outs.

Our end goal is to support the local economy and truly invest in economic development. We want to equip and train individuals there to live sustainably without our help. Our hope is that they'll be able to learn the skills they need to live freely and train children to live sustainably for the next generation. Additionally, think about the consumable buy one give one products you can choose from. Unless they can be donated on a consistent basis, their impact can be fleeting (especially soap, which lasts for only so long). 

The Solution to the Buy One Give One Model

To do this is no easy task, which is why for the first three years since our inception, b.a.r.e. soaps has specifically focused on Kaberamaido, Uganda. We want to support one location sustainably and won't move on until we are confident they can be self sufficient or have enough resources to continue to support their efforts.

Recently, we've moved onto supporting a slum in India. Why? Because Kaberamaido, once a village that was desperately seeking support, has had a few fortunate events in the past couple of years. Two additional non-profit organizations have now focused on the village, which means that sanitation efforts are being multiplied. We are still heavily focused and invested in Kaberamaido, but it also means we can think about other places to support.

When Helping Hurts quotes, "It is important to understand that development is not done to people or for people but with people".  Through Children’s Hopechest, we have been able to form and build relationships which is crucial for long-term success. Our relationship with Children's Hopechest allows us the better understand the people in Kaberamaido, Uganda so that we can assess their needs and work with them to figure out how we can invest the proceeds. It means that when we visit, we can talk directly to families and to people of influence.

Do you work with people on the ground in Kaberamaido, Uganda?

Yes! There are several people on the ground who we are indirectly in contact with on a consistent basis through our direct partners at Point Community Church. There are two "disciples", Phillip and Sarah, and they take care of the children. They make home visits, ensure that immediate attention is given due to any medical emergencies, and nurture the children when they're at the Carepoint. Additionally, we work with the local pastor and the head of Hopechest Uganda to assess changing needs. 


Disciple Sarah poses with Elvis, a child at the Carepoint

Anna Grace
Anna Grace is the leader of the group of local women we work with.  Through her, we're looking into various trades to make self-sustainability a possibility. 

The Difficulties

The difficulties of focusing on self-sustainable efforts makes the non-profit portion extremely difficult to execute.  We run into logistical challenges and lack of resources in that specific area. The distance between our location and theirs is another.  The list goes on, however, we don't allow logistics to deter our efforts.

In a joint speech given by Bill & Melinda Gates to the Stanford Class of 2014, Melinda sums it best:

But in the course of your lives, without any plan on your part,
you'll come to see suffering that will break your heart.
When it happens, and it will, don't turn away from it; turn toward it.
That is the moment when change is born.

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