DISCUSS. · Food · Government and Politics · Internet · November 2013 · The Six O'Clock News · THE WORLD *head in hands*

The Six O’Clock News: Children In Need, Charities and Cynicism

I mentioned last week that people can donate to the Syrian refugee crisis appeal via the United Nations, and in light of the Philippines’ typhoon and Children In Need’s imminent broadcast I thought I’d talk about giving cash to worthy causes.

Medicins Sans Frontiers is currently fundraising to support their work in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria, the Philippines, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal, Greece and the USA. I picked those names out of a list; you can see the map of their locations here. The World Food Programme, an extension of the UN, is present in Iraq, Sierra Leone, Egypt, North Korea, Ecuador and the Republic of Congo. Their list is here. Comic Relief has projects going in Guatama, the UK, Mozambique, India, Columbia and Bangladesh. This is their list.

I’ve name-dropped twenty countries and, shocker, they aren’t all in Africa. Some aren’t even poor. Most need help because of corrupt governments, war, shitty geographical locations or a mix of the three. (By shitty I mean “in the way of bad weather”, for the record. If it weren’t for the resemblance to a war zone, the Philippines would look very nice for a bit of winter sun.)

So how does one choose a worthy cause? By going on an aid-giving website and picking a location randomly? By picking a cause (sex trafficking, slavery, refugees, queer rights, women’s education, famine, etc.) and donating to a specific charity? By donating to a ‘general’ cause like Children In Need and letting them do the allocation? What about causes closer to home – cancer research, Jeans for Genes, the poppy appeal, local homeless shelters…?

I saw Daniel Radcliffe on The One Show the other day (nice hair, Oprah) and he said that he had to choose the causes that meant the most to him personally. JK Rowling’s charity helps out children who live in institutions, which has a passing resemblance to a certain bad guy in a certain book series she wrote. If I had to choose three charities to support I’d probably go for APEC, which supports families and sufferers of pre-eclampsia, because it’s quite literally close to my heart (yes you can make a pun out of critical illness), something that provides education to children like Camfed and something that strives to improve human rights, like AllOut or Amnesty International. But what if there was a part of the charity that I didn’t like? I’m hesitant about giving to Greenpeace, however much I love the planet, because they’ve got a habit of working against, not with, some institutions. They’re anti-GM, for example, when there are regions full or starving people for whom GM crops would help quite a bit. Humans aren’t going to stop using stuff we’ve made, like nuclear power, so we’re going to have to use our science to make sure that we’re looking after nature without compromising human rights or lifestyles that people arguably should not have to give up.

I’m going off-topic. Children In Need is on tonight and I’ll almost definitely raid my spare-change pot, but if I’m out tomorrow and see a homeless person I probably won’t give them the change in my pocket, because I have no way of knowing whether or not they’re legitimate. Then I’ll feel guilty. Should I? Should I march on the government to get them to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place? Whose problem is poor people anyway?

I don’t even know any more. Pudsey awaits.


4 thoughts on “The Six O’Clock News: Children In Need, Charities and Cynicism

  1. well I thought I’d pop in and give you my take on things …. just because I quite often read the blog and forget to say anything cos I’m busy trying to do DIY and unpack boxes this past fortnight (and prior to that was busy packing boxes, then moving, but I digress!)
    so, charity, or ‘charidee’ …. indeed, how does one choose a worthwhile cause? cos lets be honest, if we had the money, we’d support all of them! but on restricted funds, yes, choosing those that matter most to you personally is a good option. Mine are quite specific (for the health issues that affect me and my son) and we try to switch between other charities that we can’t afford to support regularly or on an ongoing basis, by donating to one for a year, then changing it the following year. And we sponsor a guide dog puppy which is kinda nice as we can’t have a dog ourselves cos of allergies.
    And only the kids in our family get pressies at xmas – adults get ‘gifts’ from Good Gifts and Oxfam Unwrapped. The gift actually goes to someone else – like goats/ducks/chickens etc for people in underdeveloped countries to start a small farm & become self-sufficient. so we buy relevant things for family – like ex-schoolteachers get a gift of books/equipment for a school in Africa or somewhere. And a shot of bull semen for brother in law! A toilet for my sister (we get on soooooooooo well!). So that’s a good way of donating to charity. not just abroad either, it’s also stuff in this country, like slippers for lonely wrinklies, baby blankets for new mothers n stuff.
    Hmmm, the legitimacy of supposedly homeless people begging. I often give them money – if they feel the need to beg and have their own agenda and don’t really need the money …. I’m trusting karma to deal with them accordingly. and for every one that is dodgy, there’s gonna be quite a few for whom it really is a lifeline, regardless of what they choose to spend it on – food, booze, drugs, pet food, whatever – once I’ve handed it over, it’s theirs, so they can spend it as they see fit. I don’t expect people to tell me how I can spend it when it’s mine so I don’t think anyone has the right to tell a homeless beggar what they should do either. It just annoys me when people use it as an excuse not to give help – “oh I’m not giving them money just so they can spend it on booze”. why not? if that’s what gets them through the day, the shitty existence that they’re enduring, who are we to judge. There but for the grace of god go I (not that I ascribe to the existence of said deity!)
    Well that feels better, I’ll climb down off the soapbox now.
    Thanks for listening 🙂


    1. I like the idea of switching charities every year and giving charity-gifts. Even if it’s fair trade chocolate or jewellery made by Bangladeshi ex-sex workers (actually exists! The Brave Collection) or something, it’s kind of a double gift.

      Good point about the money thing – but I think I’d rather give then, say, directions to a homeless shelter or something? I don’t know.


      1. but that presumes that a homeless person wants to sleep in a shelter! from an outsiders point of view, surely that’s preferable to sleeping in a doorway with a manky sleeping bag, some cardboard and a dog? but without knowing what led them to be in the situation they’re in, we don’t know whether it’s the rigidity and confines of being surrounded or hemmed in by 4 walls & a roof, feeling constricted and stifled, deterring them from seeking that shelter. Maybe, at that very moment in their lives, freedom, however bizarre it might seem in that form, is what they crave. I’m not suggesting we leave all homeless people to their fate and do nothing to help, but when asked, expressly or implicitly, give help in the way the beneficiary needs it. maybe some helpful suggestions too, but I’m always gonna start with a friendly greeting & a smile, a quick chat & a few coins 🙂


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