Prudence should guide decisions to donate online
Pictures with bright colors and abstract beauty made a splash on WeChat Moments Tuesday. Different from ordinary works of art, these pictures are creations of young artists with mental disabilities and spectrum disorders, and are part of the charity project “Enlighten Life with Art,” aimed at helping people with infantile autism, brain paralysis, Down’s syndrome and other mental diseases. The World of Art Brut Culture, the organization behind the campaign, has been dedicated to increasing the engagement with disadvantageous people through art education.
WeChat users can own a digital copy of the picture by donating 1 yuan ($0.15) or more. The money raised, instead of being funneled through the third-party charity platform, will be accepted directly by the Aiyou Future Foundation, a Shenzhen-based organization with strong social work credentials, and is subject to supervision from the public. More than 15 million yuan has been raised so far.
The event is undoubtedly an innovation in crowd-funding. It has effectively encouraged microdonations on a massive scale. With around 1 billion users, WeChat Moments provides its customers an easy access to display selfies or pictures advertising their personal lifestyle. For many, boosting the patronage of art and supporting for charity are much more meaningful than a Louis Vuitton receipt. This has contributed to the wide circulation of the pictures and a quick fulfillment of the fundraising target.
In addition, the drawings, with a collision of colors and abstract themes, have thrust people with mental and intellectual disabilities into the limelight. Some mental diseases, for instance autism, are often under-recognized in China, and people with mental disorders are always alienated and discriminated in daily life.
It is not news that autistic children are isolated and eventually pressured to quit after being admitted to study with their healthy peers. With the wide circulation of the paintings online, their talents are gradually being recognized, and a growing number of people are showing concern to their welfare.
Undeniably, today’s charity campaigns are becoming increasingly creative. For instance, the Ice Bucket Challenge, which features dumping a bucket of iced water over a person’s head in an attempt to raise public awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was a great success. With low barriers to entry and social media as platform, the challenge has attracted a large number of celebrities, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, to join. The ALS Association reportedly received over $100 million donations in just one month after the challenge went viral.
The creativity in the charity campaign is an encouraging trend, but it should be noted that “eyeball” fundraising is always accompanied by risks. The hashtag “Luo Er’s Daughter Fundraising Event” became a top trend on Sina Weibo last year. Luo, a father who raised money for his sick child via WeChat, was later disclosed to have substantial assets. The father collected more than 2.6 million yuan in just a few days after his moving article about his anxiety over the medical costs for treating his daughter went viral on WeChat Moments, but was eventually pressured to return the money back to donors amid accusations of fraud. The U-turn of the campaign highlights the necessity of prudence in donating. More efforts should be put to ensure the professionalism in all kinds of fundraising events, especially those popular online.
Meanwhile, creative campaigns like “Enlighten Life with Art” may mislead the public that all autistic children have a gift for drawing, or guide public attention only to those who can draw. But the reality is that the majority of mentally ill people lack such skills. All disadvantageous people deserve attention, regardless of whether they can draw or not. China’s charity cause has realized a leap forward in recent years, but efforts are still needed to ensure the fairness of the charity campaigns.