Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), the second leader of the Islamic State and companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), said: "How can I be concerned for the people if I do not suffer what they suffer?"
Umar said this during the time of famine in Madinah while he was ruler of the entire Islamic Empire. Herein lies a great truth of all development and community work: understand the situation of those whom you are working with.
From personal experience, I can attest that many people and charitable organizations are separated from the people who they have come to assist. Often their actions speak volumes, whereby they are far removed from those they came to help and only remotely aware of the daily struggles and situations faced by their clients. Certainly there are tools that are required for a person to do a more effective job, such as laptops, phones and SUVs - I am not here to speak about those useful tools, unless they are excessive and not required for the task at hand (by that I mean that we do not need the 2010 leather seated Land Rover with built in MP3 when we are driving out to do assessments).
Let us take a concrete example. There is a refugee camp in an East African country (purposely left unnamed) where large, well-known, organizations operate. Due to the severity of the environment in the location of this camp, the refugees are provided with limited daily water rations (which they must use for all washing, cooking, cleaning and drinking). A few meters away, over the high barb-wired wall, there is a swimming pool for "aid" workers.
As good as the intentions may be of some of these workers, their actions nonetheless speak volumes to those, on the other side of the wall, struggle to have enough drinking water each day. How can such workers lavish in the depths of a pool while the people whom they claim to have come to help are parched in the hot desert rationing out their water? There are many such examples.
Let us inshaAllah return to the best of models, that of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and those who learned from him and followed him (peace and blessings be upon them).
May Allah make us steadfast in our diin.
May Allah guide us to better character.
May Allah give us stability in Islam.