Well-intentioned people around the world have jumped to aid the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which has reportedly killed thousands.
It’s hard to fault people for being charitable, but the locals have invented a word for people whose idea of helping is sending their old clothes and household sundries: “SWEDOW.”
The term stands for “Stuff We Don’t Want,” and it includes old shoes, clothing, hand-me-downs, slightly used over-the-counter and prescription meds and, generally speaking, anything that isn’t money.
has the story of how Haitians, Sri Lankans and Indonesians were left to deal with so much SWEDOW that it started to cut into the time that should have been spent helping in the relief effort.
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Furthermore, SWEDOW threatens to put out of business local vendors who desperately need to sell the type of shoes and clothes that we’re giving away for free—in order to live.
There is one simple way that people who want to help can help. Donate money—not teddy bears, not old shoes, not breast milk. Give money to organizations that have worked in the affected areas before the storm—they will be more likely to know and be able to navigate the local context and may be able to respond faster, as it won’t take them time to set up.
So, next time you consider giving away those dusty Reebok Pumps to the unfortunate people of some affected area, think instead, “SWEDOW.”