Monday, August 14, 2006

Making a Difference?

Yesterday, a young Bosnia girl, of about 6 years of age, came to my door. Her handwritten note explained she was in dire straits and would appreciate anything that I could give her. Earlier that evening, on the way home from town, a polite young man collecting for the International Association for Cancer Research stopped me on Dawson Street looking for a small donation. Between these two encounters, I passed four people begging for money and two guys selling the Big Issue. At least one of the four was well inebriated. In the three hours that I was out of my house, three different charity appeal bags were pushed through my letter box. Another polite note introduced three Poles who would be willing to do light housework and some gardening for me. I had a voicemail from an old friend who is traveling to The Sudan to do charity work looking for some sponsorship. Trying to escape from the need to make a decision, I turned on the telly. There was an advert looking for aid for the people affected in the bombing of Lebanon. Switching channels, I stumbled across Celebrity You’re a Star! It would seem that one of the game contestants was collecting for Cancer West.

My dilemma is that I don’t know what I can do that will make a difference. Every little helps I know but how much should I be prepared to give? I’d like to have some foolproof system for knowing who I should give to and who I shouldn’t. And is giving just an easy way of salving my conscience? Does it make any difference?

I tried to work it out logically.

Who are the International Association for Cancer Research? How do I know that this is a reputable organisation. The guy who stopped me in Dawson Street wasn’t able to say too much about what his organisation did. He was clearly a professional fund raiser. So when I got home I did some searching on the web. I found the International Agency for Cancer Research, the International Cancer Research Association and Cancer Research International. There is also the International Union of Cancer Research and the Association for International Cancer Research. The latter seems to be a Scottish charity group that funds cancer research. But we’ve our own national cancer research charity, the Irish Cancer Society incorporating Cancer Research Ireland. So what the heck is a Scottish charity group doing fundraising in Dublin? Do Irish fundraisers collect in Scotland? Why do we need so many organisation and can they not work together? If it is going to do fundraising telethons, then why doesn’t our national broadcaster collect for the national cancer charity? I’m reminded again of my evil thought that all charity collections should be outlawed.

A neighbour tells me that the young Bosnian girl is actually part of a Romanian group on a major scam. She might well be, but she could also be a poor starving 6 year old. I’ve no way of checking her credentials. My Sudan-bound friend is a well intentioned but flighty individual. She has absolutely no experience of volunteering and generally speaking isn’t the most self-sufficient individual. I honestly believe that she’ll do more harm than good. Of the three charity appeal bags that came through my door, only one had any contact details/charity reference. The rest seemed to be one-man shows which may or may not be legitimate.

For the record, I didn’t give to the Dawson Street chugger (charity mugger) and I closed the door on the 6 year old Bosnian girl. I walked passed the four beggars and I used the charity appeal bags for my domestic refuse. I have ignored the Lebanon appeal. I’ve not returned my old friend’s call. I bought two copies of the Big Issue – one from each vendor. I threw both in the bin without reading them.

What should I have done?


Blogger Omaniblog said...

Well said.

What should you have done? I think what you did was perfectly in keeping with your approach.

I would have read the Big Issue. I've been impressed with it as a publication.

11:33 p.m., August 14, 2006  
Blogger Steven said...


Accept the fact that you can't help everyone. Choose to help the people you know deseve the money and will use it in the way you want it to be used (It's your money).

Don't guilt yourself over people you pass in the streets when you're doing enough as it is.

8:22 p.m., August 15, 2006  
Blogger Curly K said...

You picked a good one there Paige. We all feel guilty if we feel we're not giving enough but who to give to is the big question. Our workplace has set up a fund where we can donate from our salaries and a committee picks out four charities to assist. The committee meets representatives from the charities and reviews who will receive funding. So far it's working really well and they've managed to combine well known charities with smaller ones who are on the ground in Africa.

Have to say that I've given to a number of bag collections. Some of them may not be legitimate charities but I'm getting rid of the clothes anyway and if someone else will put them to good use I'm ok with that so long as I'm aware that it may not actually be helping orphans in Africa but perhaps making a few quid for some of our immigrants who aren't exactly well off anyway.

11:31 a.m., August 16, 2006  
Blogger KnackeredKaz said...

I don't give to those bag charities that come through the letter box. Most are not legit (though perhaps a small number are) and in some cases those clothes that are of good quality are taken and sold for profit and the rest are dumped illegally. If any of the clothes in the bag can be linked back to you, you'll be prosecuted for littering. And I do mean prosecuted, not fined, it's a court appearance.

Like Omani, I would have read the Big Issue (I hope you threw them in the recycling bin by the way!) they have some good articles! I've read stuff of theirs on the Homeless World Cup and that, very interesting.

I too have walked past the beggars with the notes, no matter what their age. I feel dreadfully guilty. After all, what would it cost me to give them a euro? It's only a euro...but you can't give to everybody. Sometimes I drop in some money, other times I buy a sandwich or something for a homeless person. But like I said, you can't do that for everybody.

I donate to Concern via my bank account and I also do some volunteer work. I support the Shoebox Appeal at Christmas and also the LauraLynn charity. I've been looking for another charity to donate to regularly though, so maybe I'll look into Focus Ireland or one of those.

As for the charity muggers, I know a lot are legit and for good causes, but I would never open my purse and give a stranger my bank details in the street. I prefer to do it in person and make sure everything is secure.

Sorry, I've waffled there, but I think you did the right thing Paige, like you said, you can't give to everyone. I feel just as guilty as you do sometimes, but making donations to legit charities does help asuage that!

11:21 a.m., August 17, 2006  
Blogger parnellpr said...

you've got the same dilemna that most of us do. How about choosing a sort of catch all charity like medecins sans frontieres or the red cross and setting up a monthly donation? That way, every time you turn down an invitation to part with your money you might not feel so bad. Just an idea


10:03 p.m., August 17, 2006  
Anonymous cp said...

some of those charity collection bags are complete scams - be careful when it doesnt even mention the name of the charity or give a number - your used items will end up on some flea market stall

2:10 p.m., August 23, 2006  

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