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In Zambia, Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl: Why is World Vision perpetuating discredited T-shirt aid?

From World Vision's blog. The Chicago Bears (NOT the Cincinnati Bengals as we previously blogged...) lost the Super Bowl in 2007.

Editor’s Note 4: 10:45am 2/15: @saundra_s reports there are now 36 bloggers that have posted on this (excluding WV itself or its staffers), of which 35 are against. One more against here from faith perspective. Now have a Twitter hashtag #100kshirts.

Editor’s Note 3: 8:45am 2/15: heard from @WorldVisionUSA finally! got this direct message on Twitter: “Thanks for following WV! For even more opportunities to get involved, check us out on Facebook.”

Editor’s Note 2 3:30pm: still silence from the @WorldVisionUSA palace as more bloggers post and more protesters gather outside in Aid Twitter Square.

Editor’s Note 10:16am: Sorry World Vision, Aid Watch committed a major factual error due to the incompetence of one of our alleged experts. This supposed NFL and zoological expert with the initials W.E. initially got the team wrong in the picture, it is the losing 2007 team Chicago Bears.

As it has for 15 years, World Vision took credit last week for accepting the donation of 100,000 unwanted Super Bowl T-shirts from NFL merchandisers to ship to poor people across the world.

The T-shirts are the result of NFL merchandisers printing championship shirts for both teams in the Super Bowl so they’re prepared to immediately sell to fans of the winning team, whichever one that turns out to be. The merchandisers get a tax deduction for donating the losing team’s shirts (saying that the losers actually won) to World Vision, and World Vision (according to their website) ships the shirts abroad, this year to Armenia, Romania, Zambia and Nicaragua.

(Saundra S has a great post explaining the financial incentives that keep this arrangement in place. Among other things, World Vision uses the shirts to fictionally lower its overhead cost ratios, great for bragging about its efficiency.)

To quickly reiterate some of the arguments against SWEDOW (Stuff We DOn’t Want) aid:

  1. It’s not needed. Seriously, neither the developing world as a whole nor the specific recipient countries named by World Vision suffer an undersupply of T-shirts.
  2. It’s not cost effective. The cost of collecting, sorting, shipping and distributing bulky, low-value items like a bunch of T-shirts does not justify the (very questionable) benefit. And don’t forget to include the opportunity cost, the lost chance to allocate those same, considerable resources to provide something better, like clean water or medicine. (A World Vision PR rep told the New York times in 2007: “Where these items go, the people don’t have electricity or running water.”)
  3. It can perpetuate local community’s dependence on free handouts and stifle home-grown economic initiatives, not to mention putting out of business local shirt sellers.

In comparison to the storm of protest that greeted aid neophyte Jason Sadler (aka the 1 Million Shirts Guy, aka Mr. Haterade) when he launched his idea to send a million T-shirts to Africa last year, the unexemplary behavior by aid behemoth and standard-setter World Vision has provoked far fewer critical posts.

Self-preservation-minded aid bloggers who work with World Vision might be  rationally self-censoring, and we’ve also heard reports that some bloggers received email requests not to blog about this topic.  This episode may reveal the current limits of the burgeoning power of by-the-people aid criticism.

Then again, this week has been an auspicious one for people-power protesting policies that should have been chucked in the bin of history long ago.  As the controversy spreads, World Vision can’t avoid debating these policies with their supporters and critics. Will next January see World Vision bragging about its 16th year of sending loser shirts to poor people, or will people-power finally halt this disgrace?

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  1. joe wrote:
    Posted February 14, 2011 at 3:27 am | Permalink
  2. geckonomist wrote:

    Opportunity cost: imagine the better uses for the money spent on Aidwatch & DRI – which never produced any tangible benefit for the poor.

    On the contrary, aidwatch even likes to hurt the poor by taking away free T-shirts from them…

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink
  3. joe wrote:

    Good point Geck. If we add in Easterly’s salary, university overheads plus 5 minutes of $400 a day for every reader plus an extra stress allowance for every person that got angry about this issue – then these t-shirts are certainly a worthwhile and cost-effective solution compared to the cost of complaining about it.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink
  4. Lauren wrote:

    There are both positive and negatives to these t-shirts. Yes, it is bad that the company is donating them just to get the tax credit for the most part. But is it really that bad to send misprinted t-shirts as aid. It meets the needs that people has. To them its not about if the shirt is right or wrong but about actually having a shirt.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  5. Mozza wrote:

    Some ugly t-shirts too…

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  6. Relief Aid wrote:

    The most important factor to look at is the “fully delivered” cost. Free t-shirts are not free. Cost to ship items from US to Zambia. Cost to pay import duty. Cost to ship by air charter or truck to remote area. Then to distribute.

    In most cases, the shipping costs, duties, expenses etc. from US to Zambia, Armenia, etc are far greater than cost to outright purchase the equivalent T-shirts from a local producer. All these are “hard dollar” costs that must be raised from donors/grantors. So it is not cost-effective for fund-raising to take accept these T-Shirts. It is a net negative/drain on actual Fundraising & programs.

    So other than a publicity stunt, the “value delivered”, this is a net negative for World Vision.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  7. dependDance wrote:

    How come worldvision never writes about the joys of destroying clothing manufacturing and distributon job opportunities among these “poor savages” they claim to be helping?

    I mean you don’t even have to cover it in the “they really really need some tshirts” claim. Just come out and own it : the aid industry is grasping for PR wins to make it appear that they do anything of lasting value, but deep down they’re afraid that local markets and jobs will develop.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  8. New Economia wrote:

    There is actually an industry for this very practice of shipping used or unwanted clothing to poor countries. It has been going for some time.

    The clothing’s name vary from country to country, but the general term is “mitumba.” These clothes bring a great benefit to the exceptionally poor. I assure you it is much more cost-effective than you suggest in the post. You can learn more about the trade in used/unwanted t-shirts in the book, ‘The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy’.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  9. William Easterly wrote:

    @saundra_s hilariously notes @Michael_Keiser comment on

    that World Vision blog didn’t have room for all the criticisms

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  10. Tom wrote:

    I like Relief Aid’s comment that “Free t-shirts are not free”. Except, that is, to the people receiving them for free. I thought the aid was supposed to benefit the poor; not those sending the t-shirts.

    Relief Aid also says it is not cost effective to send these t-shirts oversees due to various shipping costs, duties, and various other costs. If such costs were so prohibitive why does my local department stores sell t-shirts most of which come from oversees? Not only do these foreign suppliers have to pay for all the shipping costs, duties, and miscellaneuos costs associated with shipping the t-shirt, they also have the cost of manufacturing the t-shirt itself, which World Vision does not.

    It is interesting that people are worried about the value delivered to World Vision and not about the value delivered to those who received the t-shirts.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  11. Jose wrote:

    As it has been written extensively before, why not address the issue of the enormous waste that the production of those t-shirts signifies. Every SuperBowl (or WS, or the equivalent event), there are shirts that must be either destroyed or sent far away. As the NFL faces an impending labor disagreement pitting millionaires vs. billionaires, what about advocating for a moratorium on the production of the unwanted shirts?
    Surely the NFL could benefit from a PR perspective by announcing that the production of the t-shirts would begin until after a winner has been decided. Instead of a GIK, a donation could be made to a deserving organization in the name of the champion.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  12. Ed Daniel wrote:

    As mentioned earlier, the cost born by the charity or NGO can be many times the donated items value. Customs, freight, storage and disposal of unneeded items is typical. If you really wish to help in these countries, there is usually very little overhead and no customs associated with cash, and many items are cheaper there or nearby.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  13. Tom Murphy wrote:

    The clothing’s name vary from country to country, but the general term is “mitumba.” These clothes bring a great benefit to the exceptionally poor. I assure you it is much more cost-effective than you suggest in the post. You can learn more about the trade in used/unwanted t-shirts in the book, ‘The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy’.

    Yes, but mitumba are sold to people in East Africa who then turn around and sell it to consumers. This creates business and commerce. That is very different than the free distribution of clothing.

    Also, I wanted to second suggestion of “Travels of a T-Shirt” as well as this report from OxFam

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  14. Mike wrote:

    You just lost the super bowl, what are you gonna do next?

    I’m going to Zambia!

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  15. Maxamed wrote:

    its not only about the economics of shipping t-shirts around the world. its also about the ethics of (1) more aid (2) giving people stuff nobody wants (3) again as mentioned aren’t t-shirts something people can by cheaply. To solve this issue why doesn’t World Vision and the NFL just have the t-shirts made in developing countries and then they can give the loser ones away or a very low cost.

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink
  16. Ryan wrote:

    Surely the biggest negative about this is the opportunity cost and the negative effect on on the local economy. I’m more of a supporter of programs which encourage and assist in developing commerce in developing countries rather than a hand out mentality… but thats just me

    Posted February 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  17. Dave wrote:

    As someone who has recently moved overseas I can attest that shipping costs are not really all that high and I’m going to bet that World Vision may already be shipping other GIK to these communities so logistically it may not be all that expensive to send a few extra boxes.

    Also I have visited poorer countries in Africa and Asia and in many villages (heck even in the capital cities) there a lots of children and adults who would benefit from a new shirt and don’t buy one for themselves because they can’t afford it.

    Lastly, it would only hurt local t-shirt manufactures if it was a true substitute good, but if people were not going to buy it anyways I doubt that at this quantity it has any noticeable negative effect. However for the kid who just received a brand spanking new shirt I bet it has a huge positive effect.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink
  18. joe wrote:

    Dave –

    As someone who has recently moved overseas..

    Yeah, ok Dave. As someone who has seen a medical drama on TV, I guess by the same logic I’m qualified to comment on the cost effectiveness of cataract surgery.

    You’re talking nonsense, Sir. Nobody’s suffering is eased with the gift of a t-shirt. Better-than-nothing is not a a useful ethical category because when situations are bad, almost anything is better than nothing. A naked kid wearing a new t-shirt is still essentially a naked kid.

    And the time and effort you’ve spent (which, let me tell you, is actually considerable) you could have spent on something which has a bigger effect than giving them SWEDOW.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink
  19. emily wrote:

    @Dave – I think you might be missing the point. You say:

    “Also I have visited poorer countries in Africa and Asia and in many villages (heck even in the capital cities) there a lots of children and adults who would benefit from a new shirt and don’t buy one for themselves because they can’t afford it.”

    Sure, those people could benefit from a new t-shirt, but the point is that they cannot afford it. Aid shouldn’t be about hand outs, it should be about helping empower people so they can buy their OWN t-shirts.

    Even ignoring that, however, there is a further issue at hand, which is that World Vision could have done a lot more good for the country by purchasing t-shirts in a clothing market from local sellers and giving them to people who need them, or by donating the t-shirts to local clothing sellers who can sell them for profit. Giving a t-shirt “helps” one person a tiny bit for a small period of time (a t-shirt does not help lift anyone out of poverty, it is a rather worthless gift in the scheme of things, even to the poorest of the poor), whereas other options have much larger benefit with a longer-term impact.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink
  20. sam wrote:

    This is an hysterical series of messages back and forth with one common element to ALL of them: Virtually none of it informed by people who actually live in the countries where the T-shirts end up. That, to me, says all that is necessary. If you people want to pontificate about how development should be done, do not visit, do not come by, do not pass through as you are all apt to do. Simply go live in the countries you are so obviously deeply concerned about (you do care, right? well, put your money where your mouth is. I hear you already and – no, shut up, ok? You really care about this right? Well???). Then, I will gladly listen to your comments and perhaps not dismiss them as simply ideological diatribes almost, but not completely, uninformed through real experience. You bemoan the development industry for treating people as guinea pigs, but you do the same thing yourself. It’s really quite comical. The reality is, these T-shirts do not go over to Africa free. Whoever says that is UNINFORMED, but more likely, simply selling an ideological point of view (I cannot believe that the educated people reading this blog do not know that – willful omission of facts is a hallmark of people pushing a point of view, not trying to find solutions). The T-shirts are going to a broker, in fact, I’d be surprised if WV didn’t simply give them to Goodwill, which is engaged in this business themselves, my friends, at least indirectly. Oh yes, it does get interesting where you will find these people lurking…. The idea that free T-shirts breeds dependence is laughable. Do you think the broker then “sells” them for free? Ha. He puts them with all the other clothing that Americans have cast off, usually quite nice clothing, too, from my occasional forays in to markets in Abidjan, Bamako, Lome, Cotonou, Accra, etc. etc. (Oh, they’re ugly? I couldn’t make the stuff up you guys say on here, I’m almost falling out of my chair laughing. So, I guess all of the clothes meant for poor people should be screened by Bill Easterly’s Clothing for the Poor Committee, maybe Tyra Banks will join the panel. There you go, Bill, get her involved, she’s just around the corner from your office, right? and you do love publicity…) I say, spread your indignation: China dumps jeans in West Africa, and that doesn’t help with this dependency thing either, right? I’m sure NYU does dependence-creating stuff with its old computers, bedsheets and economics textbooks. Please, just look in the mirror, will you?
    OK, so the real answer to this is: Americans should not throw out any of their clothes. Use them as insulation, etc. after they are covered in holes. Or, give them to Goodwill – but no exporting them to poor people outside of the U.S. Maybe the clever economists at the World Bank can come up with some solution…

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  21. Tom Murphy wrote:


    Please note that World Vision will be giving away the goods and not providing them to sellers.

    “In fact, we deliberately distribute the Super Bowl gear to several different communities in at least four different countries to ensure that we don’t flood their local markets with more supplies than the market can handle.”

    Please correct me if my reading is wrong from their posts, but this is very clearly saying that the items are to be given out. There are no instances where WV says that goods are to be sold.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  22. sam wrote:

    What is this discussion really about? Free t-shirts in a few villages is hardly going to cause a slump in the T-shirt price in Africa. Good lord. Local clothes sellers deal with lots of items, not just T-shirts – isn’t anybody thinking this through? T-shirts here are almost free to begin with – please don’t take my word for it, come and see. Government agencies, NGOs, civil society, the big cell phone companies, etc etc hand out free t-shirts all the time here. Horrors – we’re creating a dependency on *gasp* T-shirts! Aiiiiiii! Oh when will this madness stop. OK, i think you get the point.

    And why such concern for the price of T-shirts all of a sudden? Last I looked no one eats T-shirts and, um, the vast majority of people in Africa do not earn their livings selling … clothes. Most of them are farmers. Why is there no concern about the big parastatals keeping African farmers poor by selling them fertilizer and seed on credit and then screwing them on the price of their produce? Or the big multinationals doing the same thing with other commodities? Oh, I see, they’re selling them the inputs, then it’s fine. You’re nibbling at the edges with this nonsense. But I’m curious: Let me hear the argument on that. Why so much attention to this while the bigger issues are just ignored?

    I’m sorry, I see this as just ganging up on WV because, I guess, they’re visible and, oh yeah, they do development projects. So, what the Chinese are doing, the dumping of products by American agribusiness, etc., gets a free pass because, oh I get it, that’s free trade. Maybe I should go to the tradewatch blog.

    Why is WV being castigated for such silly nonsense? A little balance would be nice. Again, though, people are looking at this from 10,000 miles away. I don’t see how you’re any “better” than the development people you attack. Maybe NYU can donate all those “Bill Easterly Rocks” t-shirts and send those over. Alas, you couldn’t give those out for free even. Ha ha ha.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  23. sam wrote:

    By the way, I went to an event not too long ago where British Tobacco was not just handing out free cigarettes to anyone who wanted one (and even if they didn’t) but – get this – sticking cigarettes in people’s mouths and lighting them for them. And many of these people were clearly children. You know what – free cigarettes, stuck in the mouth, lit – hey it could just lead to dependence on, well, cigarettes. But you know, I’m just guessing. I haven’t thought too deeply about it. But that’s a big company and if a company is handing things out, well, that’s really just good marketing, right? Free T-shirts – now that’s a crime!!

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  24. Matt wrote:

    I do believe World Vision must be kept accountable for the actions they do. I think it’s great that blog critics can cause organizations such as World Vision to reevaluate practices. However, I believe AW seems to have painted a fairly incomplete picture of what World Vision is doing in the field.

    What exactly are the facts? How much is the cost, since more than likely they do have volunteers and people of the such? What is the need? Most importantly, what does this look like with their overall development strategy? What is this looking like in the communities they are involved in? Have past communities became dependent based off of these practices?

    These are answerable questions, and I feel like it’s very tabloid-esque to pick out one thing and tear it out of its framework and context, and then criticize it based off of assumptions that may or may not be accurate.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  25. Vivek Nemana wrote:


    You’re asking great questions…except I think they should be directed at WV, not AW. One thing we emphasize is that nonprofits and other aid organizations be transparent about exactly these issues. Once they are, we’d be happy to report on the numbers!

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  26. Laura F wrote:


    I think you’ve really put your finger on a key issue here. Aid Watch can’t give the “complete picture” of what World Vision is doing in the field because World Vision itself hasn’t provided the facts to back up their presentation of this program.

    We, along with many, many other bloggers, have asked World Vision (though blog posts, comments on WV’s site, and emails sent directly to WV) to provide more information about their own program costs and results. We have asked them, for example:
    1. Can WV show that they rigorously assess the needs of the communities they work in for gift-in-kind?
    2. Why does WV use a much larger share of GIK than other similarly sized nonprofits?
    3. How did WV calculate the ‘fair market value’ for these shirts?
    4. Has WV tried to evaluate the results of this program? Can WV point to any evidence that the 15-year distribution of Super Bowl T-shirts has “facilitate[d] good, sustainable development”?

    The burden is on World Vision to prove that this program is worthwhile by making this information available to the public, and when they do so, we will report it.


    Posted February 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  27. Vivek Nemana wrote:


    Could you please clarify who exactly said that what British Tobacco was doing was “good marketing”? Not that they’re two completely different situations or anything.


    Posted February 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  28. Matt wrote:

    Laura and Vivek-
    I agree with you that it is World Vision has the burden of providing proof.

    I do think that folks like Aid Watch are vital in a healthy system that stimulates good aid practices, however, in my opinion, it’s important to convey in the article that these development practices and the implementation of this in a larger context has not been determined.

    I highly doubt that World Vision simply drops in boxes of shirts from a helicopter and leaves, but that can be conveyed from this article, especially when referencing Jason Sadler to compare to World Vision.

    World Vision likely has a larger development strategy with development experience and a plan. They are not Jason Sadler.

    However, I do agree with you that it is fair that you ask the question of what is their larger development strategy and plan.

    Posted February 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  29. Jerry wrote:

    One of my favorite photos which evokes good memories of my many years in Africa, is a picture of a plane full of ‘war-orphaned’ children loaded into the cargo hold of a C-130, getting ready to fly from Kenya into the bush in Southern Sudan to be reunited with their families. They are all beaming ear to ear, and outfitted in new T-shirts and shorts. They were going to a joyous homecoming, and dressed for a party. No one will ever convince me that sending them back in filthy worn out tattered rags would have been the better development aproach. There is a place for donated goods. Those who float high above the misery of the world’s poor often fail to understand what compassion requires. Some things are temporary, some things are more permanent. Dignity and development require both.

    Posted February 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  30. Jason wrote:

    Let me ask this question. Has anyone thought that maybe the problem starts with us here in the US? We live in an instant gratification world. We want everything now and if we don’t have it the world is going to end. This is so focused on what or how World Vision is distributing these T-Shirts to people who could really use new clothing but really there wouldn’t be all the waste if we didn’t create it in the first place. The sad thing about this is that this is only one area that our culture drives such waste.
    Plus how many people that say this is such a horrible thing can say they have spent a good amount of time in another country where people are in need as Sam has stated?

    Posted February 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  31. Zach wrote:

    I think it is a great idea to send the shirts to Africa. The people in the picture look very happy to be receiving the looser shirts. And if almost every shirt in my dresser can be made in Indonesia or China or fill in the blank less developed country and still be made available to me at very reasonable prices I don’t think it is inconceivable to think that we can ship shirts the other way in a cost effective and efficient manor. And just because there is a need for clean water in these places it does not mean we are going to stop giving out medicine or malaria nets until there is clean water for everyone to drink. We should give of what we have, and after a team loses the Superbowl that happens to be a lot of T shirts.

    Posted February 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  32. whit wrote:

    In this case, like many others instead of planners, we need searchers; who know what is going on at the bottom and actually what is in real demand for these countries unlike a bunch of T-shirts. Although I’m not sure that would even help in this situation, because unlike planners and searchers which actually care about the redevelopment of these countries instead of a tax cut or better name for themselves

    Posted February 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  33. Matt wrote:

    I feel like giving these t-shirts is not hurting any local economy. There must be obvious reasons in the first place as to why they are receiving these shirts. I’m sure that World Vision doesn’t just do this to create a good image or use it as a tax write off. I feel that they are doing this because these countries need basic necessities such as clothing. If they are open arms about these shirts I don’t see the problem in giving them. Now if you can prove that by giving countries these shirts is hurting their commerce then I’m against it. Same can be said if they are angry about the shirts or think that they give them a bad public image.

    Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  34. James Michael wrote:

    The way I look at this is simple: providing clothing to those who need it is a noble deed. If this means those who provide the T-shirts of the losing team receive a tax deduction as a result, that’s fine, someone gets a fresh shirt to wear that otherwise wouldn’t have one.

    Posted February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  35. Tam wrote:

    Sam said it best:

    “And why such concern for the price of T-shirts all of a sudden? Last I looked no one eats T-shirts and, um, the vast majority of people in Africa do not earn their livings selling … clothes. Most of them are farmers. Why is there no concern about the big parastatals keeping African farmers poor by selling them fertilizer and seed on credit and then screwing them on the price of their produce? Or the big multinationals doing the same thing with other commodities? Oh, I see, they’re selling them the inputs, then it’s fine. You’re nibbling at the edges with this nonsense. But I’m curious: Let me hear the argument on that. Why so much attention to this while the bigger issues are just ignored?”

    What nonsense! Sorry Aidwatch, but this is pure sensationalism on your end.

    Note to WV PR folk following the comments: don’t give this any time of day! it will make no difference to your donors nor to your beneficiaries – just a bunch of mostly underemployed aid people and mediocre academics (except Bill) trying to feel all smart. Meanwhile, WV has bigger aid programs that most UN agencies in some countries. You’re easy to pick on WV bc you’re big and rich – unlike the bloggers complaining about you that will make zero dent in anything! hahahahaha

    Posted February 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
  36. Jacob AG wrote:

    What bothers me the most is that these poor African kids have to rep the losing team, year after year. Why doesn’t World Vision send something Africans can be proud of for once?


    Posted February 21, 2011 at 12:57 am | Permalink
  37. Jacob AG wrote:

    (for the record, I’m just kidding. I understand the economic impact of GIK)

    Posted February 21, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink
  38. Paul wrote:

    Like Sam, I am both amused and appalled by this discussion! The *shock* *horror* from so many that WV could possibly behave in this way is hilarious! It is also about as relevant as the ancient theologians debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Get real guys! This is a long way from being the worst thing that is happening on the international aid scene – go pick on some real issues! The T shirts were probably made in China, India or Bangladesh in the first place, along with most of the clothing worn in the *developed* countries today.

    Posted February 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  39. Anthony wrote:

    This is a typical example of developed countries being greedy and putting a mask on to the unaware public that they’re these great Samaritans. It’s a shame that most people do not realize that the only reason these useless shirts here in America are sent to these developing countries is because in the end the merchandisers are saving money because of tax deductions. I do not doubt that some merchandisers have good intentions for their actions but these shirts are having not much if any real positive impact. I propose that amount of money they save on tax deductions they send to these same areas except in the form of medicine or other needed supplies. I know that these shirts can’t hurt by being sent and I’m sure are beneficial in some ways to these people, I would just hope that World Vision and these merchandisers would not “brag” about their actions and be a little more modest.

    Posted February 25, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

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    […] Additional reading on the subject can be found on Aid Watch. […]

  11. By What’s Wrong With Free T-Shirts? — Jacob Huebert on February 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    […] economist William Easterly’s AidWatch blog, co-blogger Laura Freschi says the shipment of all those shirts to poor countries is a bad thing. She lists three reasons: 1. […]

  12. […] again, about the odd phenomenon of “discredited t-shirt aid”, as it was referred to by Laura Freschi on the Aid Watch blog. For 15 years, World Vision has taken 100,000 donated t-shirts from the losing NFL Super Bowl team […]

  13. By Of t-shirts and men on February 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    […] Million T-shirts fiasco, World Vision–and, judging from a couple of Aid Watch comments, some other people–still thinks that sending t-shirts to ‘the suffering poor souls of the third […]

  14. By Education for Social Entrepreneurs « johnrougeux on February 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    […] in the world, caught flack for the way it delivered unused Super Bowl t-shirts this year. Aid Watchers has a solid critique that’s worth reading: 1. It’s not needed. Seriously, neither the developing world as a whole nor the specific […]

  15. By T-shirts and soap on February 22, 2011 at 4:30 am

    […] Then I thought, I’d trust an organization like World Vision … which has once again aroused the ire of some aid watchers by shipping 100,000 “wrong” Superbowl Winner T-shirts to poor countries as […]

  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

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