Obama may have won his second term and Mitt Romney has retreated to his Wolfeboro, NH lakeside home, but the campaign continues in Kenya.
Well, not exactly, but the Romney-Ryan campaign shirts that are no longer needed are being distributed to people in one Kenyan community.
The Orbit Village Project was founded by Tennessee philanthropist Cyndy Waters. She happens to have a nephew who worked for the Romney-Ryan campaign. The program that provides education services to young children came up with a solution: give away the t-shirts to the kids and members in the community.
“The gift of several hundred T-shirts and hats from the Romney campaign was a real blessing to us,” explains Waters to BuzzFeed.
The practice of giving away clothing has previously come under criticism.
The Seattle-based organization World Vision caught the attention of bloggers in 2011 when they touted the donation of 100,000 articles of clothing from the NFL printed with the loser of the Super Bowl. Somewhere in Nicaragua, there are shirts that say the Patriots won the 2008 Super Bowl and completed their undefeated season.
Critics decried the wasteful practices of the NFL and the impacts of dumping goods into African markets. They said that giving away free things can be harmful to local clothing sellers. Others said that the practice of accepting goods perpetuates the idea that the waste of the United States can find a new home in Africa.
Aid worker and blogger Saundra Schimmelpfennig said that organizations like World Vision are under pressure to accept in-kind donations (aka things like t-shirts) even if they don’t want them.
Although World Vision claims that there is no pressure to accept Gifts-in-kind, I’ve heard otherwise from staff members. Several previous conversations with World Vision staff have centered around the pressure they are under to accept and distribute donated goods.
While there are clearly financial benefits to shipping unsellable goods overseas, it’s not Smart Aid and it’s often of minimal benefit to the people posing for the cameras.
World Vision garnered further criticisms on the blog post announcing the give-away and on other social media channels. In a response post, a communications staffer addressed some of the concerns and said that the organization was having internal discussions about the practice.
Rather than writing off GIK as 100 percent “bad aid,” World Vision is choosing to work on improving the GIK system to ensure that it continues to facilitate good aid.
I’m sure this post won’t satisfy everyone, but I’m hopeful that it at least communicates that World Vision is thinking about the criticisms that have been leveled and that we are willing to both dialogue about it and consider adjustments to our programming as a result.
The debate is not over. Businessweek reported that World Vision continues with its partnership in the NFL. That means that for the people of Chad, the 49ers were able to convert at the goal line and defeat the Baltimore Ravens. Solutions to the issue can be debated, but one solution is off the table. The gear of losing teams are not allowed to be sold in the United States.
And if you’re a fan of the winning squad, forget about adding insult to injury. The NFL has a legal agreement stating that the shirts must never appear for sale online or be sold anywhere in the United States. For this bit of schadenfreude, you’ll have to fly to Zambia.