As the global recession continues on as part of our day-to-day living, we see that companies have grown more interested in using charity connections to promote their businesses. And it works!
Consumers want to do good while still consuming and living well. McDonalds, Avon and Reebok use social causes to encourage consumer purchasing. More companies are doing it all the time. According to some recent report about three-quarters of Americans are willing to switch to another brand or store associated with a good cause if the price and quality are comparable. Of course we also recently saw very wealthy individuals like Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Bono make bold stands by giving away most of their wealth for certain causes mainly on the eradication of poverty.
Any attempt to help the poor and vulnerable should always be welcomed. But the trendy way in which it is done concerns me a little. It is fashionable to buy from the “Red Ribbon” stores. I guess my concern is that it is a fashion, because we all know fashions come and go. When one deals with the incredible complexities of helping the most vulnerable children in the world’s poorest areas, you cannot help but stay awake at night considering the fragile methods of raising money to care for these children. Let me try and clarify through an example.
Dorothy and her two younger brothers are what we call a child headed household. They lost both their parents, and they receive no outside support at all, a fact for 85% of all orphans in Zambia. Dorothy quickly learned that unless she did something they would die of hunger. As a young girl it does not take her long to discover she really only has one choice to keep her family alive… she must put her body on the line.
Miraculously, just before she made that decision, an NGO started working in her community and chose her household to receive some help. It includes education, basic health and food security. This enables Dorothy and her brothers to continue their education and they are protected by the volunteers visiting them daily. For some reason this NGO is forced to stop their services to Dorothy and her brothers after a number of years. Reasons for stopping the services could include: corruption by the NGO; recession somewhere in the world; or, quite possibly, it became unfashionable to give. Who cares what the reason was? The reality for Dorothy is that her support stopped one day, and the very next day her and her brothers were as vulnerable as the day before the NGO arrived in their village.
This scenario raises questions for people considering giving: what about sustainability? What is my exit strategy? What if things get tough for me in my own circumstances? Such questions carry a lot of weight in much the world (Let’s leave the “I will give, if I get a tax receipt” situation out of this discussion for now.) As highly capacitated people I want to leave this question with you: What about Dorothy and her brothers? What is their worth in our calculation? We are committed as long as it doesn’t influence our lifestyles?
Red Ribbon and all the other efforts are great. We should applaud them for their effort. But you and me – why do we give to Dorothy and how committed are we to her? I want to suggest we do it because it is the right thing to do! It supersedes any argument that can be thrown at us. Anything less than this is not good enough. It must get to the point where families say, “As long as we eat, Dorothy and her brothers will eat.” With an attitude like that we will raise many Dorothies who will also live by this rule. That will make Africa a place of hope!