Post # 1
I’m returning to these boards after a while away, because I could really use some outside advice.
My husband and I used to live overseas in a low-income country. Before we left, a good friend asked us if we could pay for her to attend university. The tuition and board fees came to thousands of dollars, but it was cheaper than a US university, and we decided that with some careful budgeting, we could make it work.
This was several years ago. The first year of university went smoothly, but unfortunately, the university was temporarily closed before the second year due to local political conflict. So our friend basically sat around for a year waiting for the university to reopen, and we supported her financially during this time (she took on odd jobs where she could but it was difficult because of the conflict). Since then, the university has been open-and-shut, open-and-shut, and basically our friend hasn’t made much progress toward her degree. She was supposed to have finished university by now, and yet we find ourselves continuing to support her financially, far more than the three of us agreed upon initially. In large part, this is because a) she doesn’t have any other family or financial support networks; b) her ability to seek employment in the meantime has been hindered by both high unemployment rates there and the conflict; and c) it really isn’t her fault that things have stagnated like this. We are reluctant to withdraw support when she hasn’t done anything wrong, but I also just don’t know how much longer this is sustainable. Unfortunately, she is the victim of a much larger situation that can’t be solved, only maybe alleviated, by our financial support alone.
Anyway, all this is to say that I really don’t know what to do. I don’t like breaking promises. I understand this is not her fault. But it has been a much more intensive undertaking than any of us could have imagined — the conflict was not on the horizon when we made the agreement — and yet, I feel like if we stop sending her money, she will really be alone in what is essentially a warzone, and I feel like we will have altered her life for the worse. We have discussed trying to get her out of the country, but the financial and practical logistics of that are pretty overwhelming.
Thank you so much for any thoughts.
Post # 2
twinklecat : sorry I find this absolutely crazy. If your friend can not afford something, then she should either work and save, or take out a loan. If there are no jobs, she should move somewhere where there is work. I honestly couldn’t fathom ever asking friends for money for anything (especially my education!).
If I were you, I would bow out, immediately. This is not “breaking a promise” and you really need to change your thinking that “none of this is her fault”. I’m not pointing fault at her, but how is she going to learn to be financially independent when she can just live off of her friends?
Post # 3
I find this so bizarre too. Paying her fees is so strange to begin with but more understandable but why are you just financially supporting her indefinitely while the uni is closed? Why isn’t she getting a job?
You will not have altered her course of life for the worse at all! You have helped her more than any friend would but at this point you need to cut the purse strings. It is a lot to expect a friend to support you for years. Can she stay with family? Can they help her with living costs?
Post # 4
I don’t have much advice to give, but I think some of the previous posters should think about this problem in its context and not in the context of their own culture or financial situations. According to OP, this friend lives in a warzone. That changes things. This problem is not so black and white.
Twinklecat: how were you and your husband able to leave the country? Is this avenue possible for her?
Post # 5
chicken : Thanks, chicken. My husband and I are American and we were posted to the African country where we met this friend, it is her home country. So for us it was very easy to leave, our jobs were over, and we just went back home to the US as planned. For her, of course, it will not be so easy.
As I wrote in the original post, jobs and loans have been made difficult by the conflict and the society-wide disruption that has brought. She has no family to whom she can turn, she was orphaned at a young age, that is why she asked us for help in the first place.
Post # 6
twinklecat : this is tough. Kudos for trying to help someone less advantaged.
Post # 7
firstly, I think you’re doing an amazing thing to try and lift someone out of poverty by contributing to their education.
we are doing the same with a friend we met in SA, who has lived in extreme poverty his whole life but is very bright. He is studying towards becoming an accountant.
I completely feel you that it’s sometimes way more than you bargained for! In my experience it’s absolutely okay (even preferable) to discuss your concerns and say that your support may be decreasing and work something out instead of feeling obliged to cintinue or just cutting the person off. I’m sure she values your support betond just the money.
In our case (with the friend mentioned above) we decided not to stop our support immediately after he graduated because he had no job yet (although he was actively looking and doing odd jobs in the meantime that was only cocering hisbtransport to and from interviews) and we knew our couple of dollars were what was standing between him and hunger. So we decreased our support slowly bit by bit (because we were unable to give what we’ve given the previous 3 years). While we gradualy gave less money we continued with emotional support and mentoring for interviews/ professional life etc.
I know the problem has no easy solution and it can be sooo overwhelming and make you regret getting involved. Don’t get stuck in thinking it’s either you support totally or nothing at all. There are levels of support, or other types of support that is just as much needed. And when it works out it is the absolute best feeling in the world!!!
And to the bees who find this so bizarre and unfathomable, I think maybe you’re thinking of your situation in the US/UK / many European countries where your friends have had the same opportunities in life as yourself. But if you’ve lived in other countries and been friends with a family that is living off of a dollar or two a day (in their local currency) and you see for yourself the hardship and suffering and effect of poverty, lack of access to education, to transport, to job opportunities etc, you may feel very differently.
I think you’re trying to do something amazing bee, and I know it’s not easy to see it through. No one would blame you or think badly if you had to step back, but see if there are some options in between “all the support” and “no support” that are viable. Feel free to pm me for some ideas etc or if you want to talk more! Wishing you and your friend all the best!
Post # 8
If she is somewhere like Chad or the DRC, things aren’t going to get much better any time soon. You may be better able to help her by helping her recloate. It doesn’t have to be to the US (although that would probably be a good option). Have you discussed relocation with her?
Post # 9
Thanks to those who made informed comments — I really appreciate your advice. elliebee357, I will PM you, cheers.
We have discussed relocation with her, but it’s complicated. She is reluctant to pursue the refugee trajectory, for a variety of reasons, and for all of the conflict and instability — home is home for her. Which both makes perfect sense and no sense to me, frankly speaking. We went as far as to consult with an immigration attorney who basically said her chances of making it here as anything other than a refugee are slim — and even as a refugee, it’s tough, especially these days, in this climate.
Post # 10
What has she been doing while the University is closed? Has she been working or trying to learn a trade?
I would help her come up with a plan that is feasible, not university based, then give her a date (6 months? A year?) that you will stop the financial support. Supporting her is a wonderful thing, but at the same time, you don’t want to enable her either. If she hasn’t made progress towards a different job, skill, or university, and instead hasn’t been working much for the last few years, she may be too dependent on your cash. Not saying that the money isn’t valued, or appreciated, but she does need a game plan for the rest of her life.
Post # 11
I too find this whole situation super strange. Why on earth is a friend of yours getting financial support and a college education paid for by you? Even my parents made me pay for half of mine. The only person doing that for her should be her parents, and If they can’t well it’s still not anyone else’s responsibility but hers. Setting that aside, you have given her an insane amount already, it isn’t breaking your promise to her to stop supporting her at this time. It’s like someone giving a homeless person 1 dollar each time you walk by them and one day you don’t give them a dollar. They have zero right to demand you keep giving them money because you used to do it. A donation is at the discretion of the person donating. You don’t owe this woman anything. It’s actually pretty darn rude and inappropriate for her to be expecting this from you in the first place. Each adult is responsible for their own life. You can’t fix everyone’s situation. If she says anything to you two other than, thank you I’m so grateful for what you were able to give me, when you tell her you can’t do it anymore, than she is not a good person.
Post # 12
What was the point of university if not to become self suffcient? What you guys are doing is wonderful but at some point she has to take responsiblity for her own life and future. Right now she’s just sitting around getting by on what you’ve given her. There needs to be some kind of forward momentum. You and she need to discuss what’s the best next step. I get that there are some unbelievable difficulties but its either do something or do nothing all with her having the expectation of you supporting her indefinitely. I understand that doing the refugee thing or even leaving home is a huge deal for her but her life won’t magically change by sitting around doing nothing and it IS unfair to expect you to support her with no end in sight.
A plan needs to be formulated to get her out of her current situation with the understanding that none of this will be easy. You simply concentrate on one step at a time and she needs to be active in that plan. Of course none of this is her fault but that doesn’t mean she has no say in where or how her life should lead. So you should probably encourage her to start making her way out of her country. She needs contacts and additional support of the non-finacial kind. You need to make a plan where you start to lessen your financial support.
Post # 13
To clarify: she hasn’t indicated that she expects us to support her indefinitely. My husband and I are thinking about how to proactively initiate this conversation, not responding to an expectation of unending support on her part. She did take up a trade for a little while, but the central market in her town was burned as a result of the conflict and now she is just trying to sell out of her studio flat. A lot of people where she is living have fled into the mountains so there’s not a lot of people around needing goods and services. I’m not trying to make excuses for her, I do think she can take more responsibility and momentum in certain ways, but I think it’s important to understand just how limited her options are, especially vis-a-vis some suggestions here.
Also, ladyjane123, that’s really insensitive. I clearly stated that her parents are dead.
Post # 14
Lord, the loudass ignorance on this thread…
OP- my stepfather is from West Africa and I get what you are saying. I did not realize the complete and utter lack of ANY kind of a social safety net until we went to visit for some months. I think it’s great that you have made the attempts that you have made to support your friend but your efforts for this one person aren’t having an impact on the societal factors that are keeping her from being able to progress so I agree with the PP saying you may need to gradually reduce your support. I also wonder if there are any programs that provide support or assistance in that country that she might be able to get connected with or a way for your community to “sponsor” her (and others in her community)? It’s hard to know that your support might be what is making the difference between survival and not for another person. It’s also hard when your support creates a kind of dependence for someone you were hoping to help. That was one of the most challenging aspects of our visit- my stepfather sent money home every month and our family having consistent food and income made a huge difference for them and we were still overwhelmed by how much need there was and our inability to do more.
Post # 15
- Wedding: May 2016 - Sussex, UK
twinklecat : This is a very rough situation bee. I know this isn’t the main point of the post but how much is iit mpacting you paying for her studies and expenses? Is it a matter of being able to save less or is it making a difference to your day to day life?