In the run up to December 25th. it’s impossible to forget that poverty stalks the world. The bombardment is in full swing. Incomprehensible figures hit our TVs and every page we raise on the net reminds us: Half the world’s people live on less than $2.50 a day[i] and the leading causes of death of the (up to) 25,000 under-five children who die daily are pneumonia, diarrhoea and other by-products of malnutrition – all 100% preventable.
We see the need of the poor and some of us react positively. We bung some money into an envelope or transfer by machine, but actually it's quite a minefield out there. Unless quality research is done the money we donate could be going to a bunch of shysters or, just as bad, to groups who make matters worse despite their good intentions.
Because tackling poverty on the ground is tough work. Experience shows that a worthwhile project has to have at least two of the attributes of Ownership, Capacity and Sustainability.[ii] Finding organisations and people who do qualify, who ensure charity drives get to the impoverished, is the key to donating successfully and being able to say, ‘I helped.’
There are many worthwhile charities to contribute to (see a list at the end), but for me there’s another, even more powerful option.
Look at where you live. Charity begins at home, whether you find yourself in the wealthy West where the new minimum wage is set to become $12 per hour, or in 1st / 3rd world cross-over countries like South Africa where (in parts) 60% have no work.
Check out your local grassroots organisations, give directly or perhaps contribute to the salary of the staff. What if, in lieu of volunteering at one of these places you decided to donate the portion of income you’d otherwise lose when being there, the value of your time, and in that way contributed to employing a passionate individual with a total focus on helping? Wouldn’t it be great to say, ‘Sally? Great kid, she works for me two hours a month at the shelter clinic!’
Seek out those 24/7 institutions which you can drive to or phone and follow. A mission/interdenominational outfit[iii], the orphanage or the old people’s temporary night shelter, the abused woman’s dormitory behind that church where you were shocked at what you saw and ran. Food stations, self-help groups or a community newsletter that enlightens and offers life giving advice. This is real, effective giving because not only do those in need receive but the system that created these poverty problems in the first place begins to be resolved.
Of course we personally and individually didn’t cause poverty. There was no poverty in Europe before the great land grab, and no one starved in Africa before Europe began to scramble for it.[iv]
Colonialism and its follow-up financial imprisonment mechanisms, underpinned by having the military backed US dollar as the world’s reserve currency (enforced by the mighty banks), and white collar corruption[v] are the major causes of modern day poverty. Fighting the corporate elitist system for change is the long term charitable act.
Again, there are ways.
In South Africa 100,000 current and ex-miners are seeking permission to pursue a class action lawsuit against 32 gold mining companies.[vi] [vii] Support them. If all along the miners, farm and industry workers had had a fair deal South Africa wouldn’t be desperately poor, and it wouldn’t have the crime and anger levels it experiences today. There also wouldn’t be a few Brits, Swiss and others swimming in Africa’s pilfered gold - it’s been going on since the 1850s. The court challenge underway doesn’t go near far enough.[viii] Recently Miners Shot Down, the story of the Marikana Massacre, won an Emmy. Watch the movie, support the campaign.
And of course, wherever you are, there is something. Some South Sumatra folk need support[ix] to stop jungle destruction, Argentinians need support against Monsanto[x]. Corporate USA made (and makes) billions out of the Iraqi war; the UN says $500 million is urgently required[xi] – do you support the incessant war mongering? Whatever you do, join in the voice to tell Wall Street to go to hell.
Christmas has always been for the better off only; the used and no longer fashionable from our homes has gone to the disadvantaged within throw-distance. We have to go bigger now, we have to wrestle the giant.
This Christmas let’s do something different. Let’s give to those that need it in the way that they need it. This Christmas, let’s make a start at changing the world.
Global Giving Options:
Bioethics Prof Peter Singer, an Australian who has put his life in to building lives, has a basic list of global organisations deserving of your aid: SEVA Foundation, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), Project Healthy Children, Possible Health (in Nepal only at the moment but pioneering a "durable healthcare" model), Population Services International, Oxfam, Living Goods, Iodine Global Network, Innovations for Poverty Action, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Give Directly, Fred Hollows Foundation and Development Media International and Against Malaria Foundation all get a mention.
[ii] ‘Aid and other dirty business’ by Giles Bolton
[v] ‘More money has left Africa illegally than the continent has received in the past 50 years … in the past 30 years, (the de Klerk era I call it) South Africa has lost nearly $100-billion to tax avoidance schemes.’ … http://mg.co.za/article/2015-11-25-help-us-bust-tax-dodgers .