Standing on the edge of a cliff and wondering whether I should jump. Whatever decision I make there will be some people who disprove and others who would join me if they could. How's that for an intro to a topic that may find you wishing you could be behind me at the precipice giving a final shove? Whether you agree or not with the following viewpoint is your own decision and I am trying to sway nobody.
Charities. I am very opinionated when it comes to charities and who gets my hard earned dollar and cast-offs. Most causes these days seem to have a celebrity spokesperson attached to them and this is my first concern. Unless that person is directly affected by the cause - it's not credible to me. Years ago, Mary Tyler Moore used her notoriety to champion the Juvenile Diabetes Association. Makes sense, since she was a sufferer of the ailment. I'll even accept Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats organizing the charity fundraiser Band Aid to raise global awareness of the famine crisis in Ethiopia after visiting the area and being profoundly affected. See - I do have a compassionate heart.
What bothers me is the Associations that use impoverished families in predominantly African countries to squeeze monthly payments from our bank accounts to supposedly help make a difference. But from what I can see, a lot of money is going to produce and air the infomercials, and then send monthly updates on the family being sponsored. Of course, if the Hollywood icon would donate their earnings for just one movie - famine might be a thing of the past for a handful of communities. After all, as they say, only pennies a day can make such a difference - imagine what a million would do? I agree that is a sad state of affairs in many of these 3rd world countries and am grateful for all that we have here at home. Interestingly, part of my skepticism comes in part from a documentary that I saw concerning the Aids epidemic that continues to claim many lives and leave many children orphaned. Despite many people were well aware of the dangers of unprotected sexual encounters, they refused to use protection. Some even freely went on to infect others knowing they were giving a death sentence along with a moment or two of passion. I wish I could remember more about that film and watch it again. I guess the bottom line is that I would like to see how my charitable dollars are being spent and hopefully not so much on the administration costs and advertising campaigns.
Charity begins at home. In the broadest sense within my country and of course my community. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to donate a $2 can of soup that will be shipped half way across the country or another continent. The cash is easier to transport and purchasing local products will have the added benefit of boosting the economy. Win-win. Food donations to me should always be done locally - every community has people who may on occasion need to visit the food bank. I have been there myself. I would prefer that donations of household items go to the local woman's shelter - but I wouldn't be completely against a charity that takes donated items and sells them to the public to earn money. I just want to know how much money is funneled back to those in need and would items be provided at no charge if necessary. Getting back to the impoverished and orphaned in Africa - don't kid yourself into believing that the same destitution doesn't happen in the western world.
I may be way out on a limb here and mis-informed but I believe that most of the homelessness in this country is to be found in major cities. It is difficult to walk a city block in downtown Toronto without seeing "street people", but in my community in the outskirts of the city, I have never seen someone sleeping in the doorways of stores or on the sidewalks. Any reasons why this is so, would be pure speculation on my part, but I don't think that the size of the community matters as much as the lure of the big city and bright lights that never sleeps instead of the carpet being rolled up at dusk and the light turned off. If you are unhappy in your community, you look for a place to hide in the anonymity of the urban spoils. Compared to Nipigon - Thunder Bay is a big city to take refuge. This is where I step outside the confines of my neighbourhood to donate to the homeless crisis. Same goes for the children's hospital, after of course I have considered the needs of the local hospital.
There are natural disasters all over the world and some are so catastrophic that they captivate world-wide attention for days and years afterwards. Some places never returning to their former glory. But to be sure, there are disasters in Canada as well. I am not suggesting that there is anything reaching the devastation of the Indonesian tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti or hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. There are instances of flooding, forest fires, tornadoes. Perhaps not to the scale of other countries but devastating to those affected to be sure. Although Canadians do escape Mother Nature's wrath, we do have other disasters to contend with. For example, do you know how many people die in Canada trying to get a high school diploma? Even one in this civilized society of ours would be too many. Seven native students that were ripped from the families homes to attend high school hundreds of kilometers from their homes. In a strange environment without family support and guidance, these children chose the wrong paths to escape their frightening reality and in a futile attempt to find acceptance in the community they didn't know or understand. Consider yourself in that situation at such a vulnerable age. Most of us struggle with the start of high school life and we have our families standing behind us in support. Maybe some charitable dollars can go toward suitable educational opportunities in their home towns instead of boarding homes and plane rides. That is going on today in Thunder Bay and its surrounding communities. Still not convinced? Look at the issues plaguing Attawapiskat.
Ironically, while one teacher fought to bring awareness to the problems in our own backyard and she was summarily dismissed. The reason, another colleague was organizing a fundraising trip to Nicaragua where they built a basketball court and brought donated school supplies and computers. If the money for the flights for 15 people from Toronto to Nicaragua was spent on improving conditions in Attawapiskat or after school programming for the needy in Brampton...what a difference they would have made. Why even in their own school community their were students living below the poverty line without the opportunity to look beyond their backyard let alone travel half way across the globe. Keep it local and fund raise for scholarships for post-secondary education for a deserving fellow student or two. You will have the added benefit of seeing with each passing year with your own eyes how your social awareness has made a difference. Call me a cynic but with the rampant poverty in Nicaragua, I would think that a garden to provide nourishment would be moderately more necessary than a concrete basketball court. Maybe it's just me?
Like it or not I will spend most of my charity dollars and free time helping the many needy and deserving families and individuals in my own community and country. Excepting of course for immediate need after natural disasters - it just seems to me that there is a lot of need right here in my neighbourhood. Although remaining the cynic on the home front I am bothered by every Tom, Dick and Harry reaching their hand into my pocket because some inconvenience has befallen them. I'm not talking about the people who have been struck by an illness or are coping with a death due to an illness and chose to channel their grief and energies into raising money for that cause. I am talking about the family member that passes away and before the sod is laid on the grave, a trust is set up at the bank for the children. Maybe it seems cold, but I bust my butt to ensure that to the best of my ability my children were provided for in the event of my untimely death. Why didn't these people? Should I pay because they chose the trip to Florida over the contributions to life insurance policies? And in some cases, you know that the offspring and surviving spouse are well taken care of - especially in the case of a police officer killed in the line of duty for example. I would suspect though that most of us facing the death sentence of a terminal illness would go to the ends of the earth and back in the search for a cure - that sort of thing could be costly. Who should pay? I suppose it would be a personal choice decided case by case for me. Sometimes these "cures" are quackery.
But who isn't a little jaded about "giving til it hurts" after hearing stories about people being jilted by the likes of the Burlington, Ontario young woman who by all appearances seemed to be suffering from cancer. She collected $20,000 from the bogus charity she set up, people likely thought they were donating to the Canadian Cancer Society. She isn't the only one who has gotten caught in this sort of fraudulent activity - how many are there that haven't been caught.
And on that note: I will leave you with just one thought. I was passing through a store in the mall the other day and came across the most divine pair of shoes that would surely improve my posture and comfort of my tender tootsies. If you could possibly see your way to tossing a loonie or two my way I would be ever so grateful. Of course if you would like to spread the smile even further across my face - the most adorable dress was right next door. I've had them put it on hold. Donations of $5.00 or more will get a photograph of my new outfit. Not only will you find a outlet to restore your faith in humanity but you sure will brighten my day! :)