Maybe the t-shirt guy was right…

I’ve been thinking recently about how to define and assess needs. The practice brings all kinds of baggage and biases with it, both cultural (if you’re doing an assessment outside your own community) and institutional (if your organization has a particular focus or strength, it’s easy to project that onto the community.) Tales from the Hood has been pondering related issues. I picture him pulling out hair while writing on the topic. Or any other topic.

It’s with this issue in mind that I noticed something: there seems to be a shortage of t-shirts around Mbale. In fact, all across Uganda, I rarely see men out in public with t-shirts. Ugandan men make do with dress shirts, both long- and short-sleeved, or even polo shirts. They save their precious few t-shirts for when they’re actually doing manual labor. Otherwise, they’ve always got something with a collar. This community clearly needs t-shirts!

Where’s the 1 million used t-shirts for Uganda? Maybe the aid blogosphere shouldn’t have given that guy such a hard time?

(P.S. In defense of T-Shirt Guy, he has apparently responded to the criticism by changing course. It’s not entirely clear what he’ll do now. His fancy website says that it will involve t-shirts, but that they won’t be sent to Africa. We await further news. Because I didn’t have a blog when the whole thing came out, I was unable to express my snarky commentary to the world. Is there a statute of limitations on mocking a bad idea?)