Knowing your own needs best.

Jacob Goldstein reports on GiveDirectly, an innovative new charity that gives out cash, no strings attached, to the impoverished:

An inordinate number, it seemed, used it to replace their thatched roofs, which are not only lousy but also weirdly expensive, as they need to be patched every few months with a special kind of grass. A metal roof costs several hundred dollars, but lasts for 10 years, making it a much better investment. Omondi was among those who bought metal roofs. He also purchased a used Bajaj Boxer, an Indian-made motorcycle that he uses to ferry people around, for a small fee; he is also currently paying off a second motorcycle, which he rents out. Now Omondi makes about $6 to $9 a day in his taxi operation, several times his previous income, and he works almost every day. Several of his neighbors also used the money to start businesses­. One man bought a mill and charges villagers to grind their corn. Others became microretailers, buying goods like soap and oil at wholesale and reselling them at a markup.

GiveDirectly has been picked out by GiveWell for its high impact potential.

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