Saturday, 14 August 2010

Charity Begins

If you have enough to eat, and a safe place to sleep, and nobody wants to kill you or take you from your family, you are among the most fortunate few of a troubled world, and you should never forget your sheer luck.

I read this last Sunday. Joseph O'Connor said it in the Observer magazine, and, although it's certainly not the first time that's been pointed out to me, and I'm equally sure it won't be the last, it's been niggling at me.

I'm lucky. I'm so, so, lucky.  My whole family is, and most of the people I know.

It's not just O'Connor's words though. It's these pictures:

which Potty Mummy posted a couple of days ago, and the reports that Motherhood and Anarchy posted from the Jheelpur slum in Bangladesh, as well as the fantastic support that Josie, Eva and Sian are giving to Save the Children through the Blogladesh initiative.

And the question is, what am I going to do about it?

And while I realise the dramatic answer would be to say that I'm going to whisk my entire family off somewhere to "make a difference", I am also reminded of Milton: They also serve, who only stand and wait.

I feel, secretly, that giving money to charity isn't enough, that I should be the Borders' answer to Mother Teresa.  To be doing.  To be putting my body on the line.  Getting my hands dirty.  Going to Bangladesh, like Motherhood and Anarchy did, and Josie, Sian and Eva are.  But I can't.  And the amazing people who can and are doing those things need money to do so.

B and I already give regularly to charity, and we also sponsor three children in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Mali, but somehow, now that none of that is my money, it feels like I am not doing anything, or perhaps just that we can do more.  So I'm going to go back to basics, and I'm going to tithe my own, small,  income.

I'm also going to do (and indeed am doing) something that that British side of my nature thinks is rather inappropriate, (and that, having seen what the Blogladesh initiative is doing, now also feels a bit lame, but still... ) I'm going to blog about it.   Each month I'm going to pick a charity, and I'm going to write about it, in the hope, not that you'll all think I'm wonderfully smug for giving money to charity, but rather that whatever publicity charities can get is valuable, and might be of some help, however small.

So, and with apologies to Save the Children, because the video was actually the first thing that I saw that got me thinking like this, and because it seems to cover the aims of all those who have made me think over the last week, 10% of my last month's income has been sent to Unicef:

"We believe that nurturing and caring for children are the cornerstones of human progress.  UNICEF was created with this purpose in mind – to work with others to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path.  We believe that we can, together, advance the cause of humanity.
We advocate for measures to give children the best start in life, because proper care at the youngest age forms the strongest foundation for a person’s future."

You can find out how you can support Unicef by clicking here.


  1. Great idea. I think the blogladeshers are brave, I actually couldn't cope with going to a country like that and seeing suffering at first hand. The thought that it happens is enough. Like you I give to charity regularly, and once you set something up you don't 'miss' the money. Writing about these things is really valuable too. Don't be too hard on yourself, you're doing what you can. I sometimes write to my local MP about issues like this and when I recently wrote to him about maternal deaths in the developing world he replied with a thoughtful and well-researched letter. I hope he can help do something about it too!

  2. i am now over-run with guilt that i have not written to the child we sponsor in months, and thats at 6am before i really think about what i could do.
    great quote, great post!

  3. Well done for doing that, we do have to stand back occasionally and look at what we have and what so many people don't have to appreciate that we are very lucky really. XX

  4. Emily. You're so right. I hadn't really thought of them as brave, but I suspect that those are experiences that will stay with them, and which may indeed make it hard for them to go back to "ordinary" lives... I will be reading with interest. Good idea to write to your MP too.

    Notes - you are given at least nine months off thinking about anything other than yourself, your baby and occasionally your husband (in that order!)

    Chic Mama - and coming from you, with all that life has thrown and you recently, that really means something. Thank you for the comment x

  5. Thank you for the mention. This is such a difficult issue; I so often feel guilty for not having to worry about the fundamental things that others in the world still face. You are right, the Blogadeshers are brave - they will see some difficult things. Going to Bangladesh and visiting the slum has changed me and my perspective and will stay with me forever. I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the need but hope that by doing my little bit I might make some small difference to someone - but I still feel so ineffective and angry at the disparity between our lives. Incidentally, we are moving towards setting up a charity to fund raise for a Primary Health Care project in the slum. Will be more details on my blog as it happens if you are interested in following progress. Well done you for your initiative. While I was agonising about what to do after my visit to Jheelpur, a friend said to me "lots of change is only made up of little bits of change" and that helps me not to feel that the small things we are able to do are a waste of time.


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...