In a world of overwhelming need, many people dream of making
a difference. But too often, giving to even worthy organizations seems like
throwing money into an endless well of human need and misery.
This was the sense of futility that confronted Brian and
Mary Dawson, fourth-year medical students who visited Uganda in the spring
“When you visit a country of great need like Uganda, you’re
the novelty, you’re the visiting person from afar, the rich ‘Muzungu’ (white
person) from the U.S., and that’s a big deal to them,” Brian Dawson said.
“People come to you and ask you for money to feed their families, to buy
medicine, to pay school fees. But when you give it to that person, you enrich
one person for one moment in time, you don’t actually make any life-altering
change, and you don’t feel like you have really made a difference at all.”
But on this particular trip, the Dawsons had the opportunity
to participate in a project which would provide food and income for the
villagers for years to come. That experience became the model for an
organization that would create change in numerous impoverished communities
around the world and provide a focus for the Dawsons’ desire to improve lives.
Now both physicians who live in Greenville, Brian and Mary
Dawson founded an international aid organization called ChooseAneed.
The organization is essentially a web site network which, in
the years since its creation, has provided more than $100,000 to projects in
nine countries and bettered the lives of countless individuals.
“We try to fund projects that are self-sustaining, that will
give people a chance to make an investment where the change will be
self-perpetuating,” Mary Dawson said. “We also try to support projects that are
truly life-saving or life-changing, and that impact some pretty basic needs.”
So, while Americans this Christmas made lists and checked
them twice for thousands of other extravagances, the Dawsons and the
ChooseAneed board made a wish list of another sort: a water well for a village
in Uganda, a goat project in Malawi, mosquito nets in Malaika, a housing
project in Costa Rica.
Water, food, housing, health. Life itself.
Even before their undergraduate days at Mars Hill College
Brian and Mary Dawson took numerous international short-term missions trips.
The opportunity which gave birth to ChooseAneed was a “cow
project” which would purchase and grow a herd of cattle for the Ugandan
villagers to share. Village elders had a business plan, leadership, community
investment and know-how.
They just lacked capital investment.
“When we gave the money to the cow project, we felt like we
were doing something that was more of a partnership than a rich benefactor
giving to a poor person,” Mary said. “We were meeting them as equal partners in
a project that would benefit the whole village for the future.”
Buoyed by the experience, the Dawsons created an Internet
network that has evolved into www.chooseaneed.org, where needs are posted from
around the globe so interested donors can literally choose a need and fund it.
“I don’t know how to take care of cows, or how to grow a
herd. But I do know how to help raise money,” Brian said. “So, ChooseANeed is
basically a network which puts people together. We are raising capital and
cooperating with people across the world who have the knowledge, the skills and
the leadership to make a particular project work.”
The organization is committed to funneling 100 percent of
each donor’s gift to the chosen project. Board members fund administrative
As a rule, ChooseAneed posts projects from areas which meet
the World Health Organization’s definition of extreme poverty, which is to say
that most of the community lives on less than a dollar a day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Buckner is media relations coordinator at
Mars Hill College.)