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23 Jan 2010 / Julie

thoughts on charity

street sign

image courtesy of LiminalMike on flickr

Charity has been on my mind lately. I am fortunate enough to be able to give both money and sweat to the issues, causes, people, and events that i want to effect change in. and there are a lot of things i try to make a dent in throughout the year: homelessness, hunger, abuse, disease, endangered animals and habitats, and so much more. I’ve even given thought recently to carrying non-perishable easy-to-eat foods in my car when i encounter the homeless, hungry, or otherwise needy. And being around Baltimore, there’s a ton.

But there’s two things that have been bothering me lately:

1. Working together or apart?
There are so many charities out there and a lot are trying to help the same cause. While each organization might have a slightly different take on the situation, doesn’t it seem that if there are, say, 3 international organizations to help people get access to clean drinking water, that they’d do more good if they worked together? Who knows, perhaps they do.

I’m not saying they should combine into one organization, but why not? (yeah, yeah, monopoly, etc) but seriously – even if as a concerned citizen i did my research and gave to the charity i thought was the best, or who would put my money to best use, i feel that all that $ and sweat spread out among different organizations who might be trying to do the same thing in the same place would do much better working together and spreading out.

I recall an activity that i participated in during one of the many leadership development things i’ve done – we were broken into three groups and had to appoint a regional manager who would get information from and discuss things with the national boss. all three teams got different information and even though we all worked for the same company, no one in the room thought to combine forces and share information between the regional offices. No one. there were at least 20 adults in the room and none of us thought to work together.

Is it so ingrained in us in this society that we’re independent and must thrive on our own? What happened to our sense of community and working together for the greater good? Where’s the acknowledgment that it’s the end goal we’re after (clean drinking water for all, for example), and not how we got there (making MY charity successful over yours)?

2. What about the everyday tragedies?
Haiti has been on most of our minds now for almost two weeks and there have been countless calls for donations, aid, and hope for the people now having to continue their lives, bury their lost, and rebuild their worlds. People, my family included, have been giving whatever they can in money, supplies, hope, or sweat since the disaster struck. And the media has been there to cover it all; including the Hope For Haiti Now telethon that ran last night on over 37 channels covering over 650 million households worldwide.

I love it when celebs use their power for good instead of evil. But here’s my question – how can we dig so deep into our hearts, wallets, and media coverage for immediate-crisis things like this and yet mostly fail to acknowledge that there’s major tragedy happening every day -

I know there are people everyday who are doing what they can to make a difference in this world and help everyone get access to the basic human things they need – food, water, shelter, medical care, love, etc. It’s just that i wish these issues were given more attention in the media other than when something major happens and we can’t ignore it anymore. It’s kind of like “how many people have to die before someone does something?” What needs to happen for something to finally be visible?

I know thinking about these things regularly can get you down – esp when you think there’s no end in sight. But wouldn’t it be a better day when we can look around and know that people have clean drinking water, food on the table, and a roof over their heads? Then we can put our money and sweat into helping people reach their dreams.

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