Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Charitable giving and my conscience

Australians are living in a lucky country. We're not living on top of any tectonic plate and thus, rather immune to natural disasters such as huge earthquakes and volcanic erruptions. Our farmers are prone to drought and floods, and we do have massive bush fires every year so those are probably the worst natural disasters that we have.

South Africa is so poor and lacking in resources. Same with South Asia- there's so much corruption that poverty is virtually part of the landscape. America has devastating hurricanes such as Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf hotspot. Yes, we really are lucky. The only thing we need to face are hot 44 degree summers and cold winters where it can be about -1 degrees at the coldest point in winter. Nothing like Canada and their -55 degree winters. I wouldn't permanently migrate to any other country.

Timothy at WealthArtisan posted his story '7 Dollars and the World Around You' and if you like being aware of how you can help other people, it may offer you a different perspective on how your actions can help or change other people's lives.

Human welfare versus animal welfare

Because we're such a lucky country, we're more of a donor nation than a recipient country. I'm constantly torn between whether I should donate to human charities or animal welfare charities. If I donate to charities that provide food to poor nations, then what about the animals/pets who have been dumped on our streets, what about the strays in Greece and what about the countries that support bull or cock fighting, bear baiting and other stupid events that abuse animals?

The different types of giving and donations and how you can help:
  • Giving money directly (eg: either one off donations or regular monthly/annual donations)
  • Buying fundraising goods (eg: raffles, toys, pens, badges etc)
  • Supporting others on their fundraising endeavours (eg: biking, fun runs, baked goods etc)
  • Volunteer work and giving your time (eg: petitions, helping with fundraising, helping with admin etc)
Choice of charity and who to give to

There are a few issues that I dislike when it concerns some charities - the ones that pay their directors or chairman a few hundred thousand dollars for working for them, the ones that waste a lot of donations in admin support cost. I've supported the following charities:
  • Salvation Army - they help our local poor individuals and families + homeless
  • WSPA - they fight and petition for the change in animal welfare laws in countries that abuse animals
  • WWF - they support animals and wildlife conservation
  • RSPCA - local charity supporting animals that have been dumped and are homeless
  • Cancer research - Particularly breast cancer and prostate cancer
  • World Vision - poverty in the world
I've been raising funds at work by supplying drinks in the staff fridge. Whenever my colleagues buy the drinks, the profits raised will go to supporting the charities I plan to support next year:
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation and their projects involving cancer research because so many women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year
  • RSPCA and their multiple projects involving animals
  • Doggie Rescue and their projects involving finding new homes for pets that have been dumped by their uncaring owners. Unlike donations getting lost in administration, I can buy them something on their wish list and give it to them, knowing that every dollar has been used on the doggie's welfare
  • Find volunteer work to assist the homeless in Sydney

I hope you're giving something back to the community in the form of your time or some donations. If not, please think about it. It can make a difference to people and animal's lives. It really is lucky that some of us can be born in a world of choice and opportunities while some of us are born into a world of poverty and deprivation.

Seeing a homeless man eating food from the rubbish bin really touched me

He was in his late 30s or early 40s. When I first saw the pile of half eaten food waste on the ground, on a ratty pizza box, I thought someone had dumped food on the floor. Until I noticed a man riffling through the rubbish bins looking for food that was dumped. I wasn't sure whether I should approach him or not. Until I saw him eat some steamed broccoli straight from the bin. He is the first homeless person in Australia that I have ever seen going through the bins to find scraps of food to eat.

There I was, at Bondi Beach, where the homes overlooking the beaches are valued at over several millions of dollars. Where there are so many tourists and wealthy people (or maybe over leveraged people!) are living and yet this very skinny, homeless gentleman is eating from the rubbish bin. I asked him if it was alright to give him enough money to buy a few meals.

I didn't want to offend him or embarrass him because it's awkward for him to be doing that in the first place, but he accepted, thanked me and gave me a wide, toothless smile. I could see that he was undernourished and suffering malnutrition. I wish I could do more to change things in this world. I wish I could have offered him a job or more long lasting assistance.

I'm a bit wary with some of the homeless folks. Some of them are sitting surrounded by empty booze bottles and they don't look underfed, only unkempt. I presume that they are fed by the soup kitchens and charities at night so that any donations that go their way are spent on booze and drugs. The average homeless person in Australia living on the streets for 11 years. What can we do to help them?

If that same homeless gentleman had sat there and waited for donations, I'm sure he would have received enough to buy some meals, instead he was proactively going through the bins and not waiting for handouts. In some ways, it demonstrates to me that he is trying to live his life instead of waiting for charity. It makes me wonder, what happened in his past, that led him to this future.

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