I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve witnessed what your writer from BC refers to as “learned helplessness” over here in Afghanistan.
Example: this past summer I visited a small village near the PAK border where the people had absolutely no water and were relying on a local road construction crew to fill their various pots, pans, and jugs, which they left on the side of the road to be filled on a bi-weekly basis. These people had a well, but the simple pump system had broken. Rather than attempt to fix it (from what I understand, they had been shown how to do repairs when the well was built by the PRT some years before) or scrape together some money to hire someone to fix it, they simply sat around in 120 degree heat for months, waiting for someone to come help. A US patrol noticed the buckets by the side of the road and stopped by to investigate. I strongly suspect that had we not stopped to ask what was going on, there’s no telling how long those people would have gone on being thirsty and filthy. If these guys couldn’t figure out a permanent fix for a basic human need like water, I’m quite sure goat farming would be far too complex of a task for them to master.
May I add one more point, which I learned from a long-term missionary to Uganda? She told me short term mission trips do more damage than good in most cases. If your youth group paints and cleans my medical clinic for free, the cleaning lady and the house painter have no work and their children go hungry that week. If you send a quarter of the cash it would need to pay for the teens plane tickets, I can pay the painter and the cleaning lady for a month. Their children eat, they work, and their dignity is preserved. The clinic will be perceived as a long term part of the community, not a brief foreign intrusion, which will encourage people to come to us for the medicine they need… so keep your youth group at home.