Whether it’s your time or money, give what you can this Christ­mas

Irish Independent - Farming - - ANALYSIS - ANN FITZGER­ALD

I CLEARLY re­mem­ber watch­ing the Live Aid con­certs in July 1985. I was a col­lege stu­dent and, like the rest of my sib­lings, my sum­mer job was work­ing on the farm at home, sav­ing hay, milk­ing cows, etc. So none of us had ac­cess to much cash.

But the use by Bob Geldof of the ‘F-word’ shocked (how times have changed!) us into ac­tion. We man­aged to scrape up more than £100.

The mo­bil­i­sa­tion of the pop world through Band Aid and Live Aid raised about US$150m. It helped make a dif­fer­ence to Ethiopia, where one mil­lion peo­ple died be­tween 1983-85.

Un­for­tu­nately for hu­man­ity, famine hasn’t gone away. Think East Africa, South Su­dan and Ye­men. Es­ti­mates vary, but the num­ber of peo­ple who die from hunger and hunger-re­lated dis­eases cur­rently stands at around 9 mil­lion per an­num, ac­cord­ing to UN re­ports.

Be­tween now and this time to­mor­row, 25,000 peo­ple will die. The same will hap­pen the fol­low­ing day, and the day af­ter.

How­ever, it is also im­por­tant to point out that this is an im­prove­ment. Just 25 years ago, the fig­ure was 40,000 peo­ple per day. Over the past decade in par­tic­u­lar, there has been a marked de­crease.

I point this out not to sug­gest that there is room for com­pla­cency, but rather to en­cour­age prospec­tive char­ity donors. (So, char­i­ties, when ask­ing for help, please be sure to re­lay pre­vi­ous pos­i­tive re­sults.)

A few months ago, I read a story about how six peo­ple were go­ing to spend €5m apiece (€30m in to­tal) on a jaunt into space. Tourist trips to the moon are ex­pected to soon come on stream and their price tag is set to be mul­ti­ples higher.

I couldn’t help think­ing what dif­fer­ence this would have made to so many lives.

More re­cently, a very dif­fer­ent story of €30m made the news — that of El­iz­a­beth O’Kelly, the French-born Co Laois woman who be­queathed this sum to five char­i­ties in 2016. An in­ter­est­ing as­pect of this story is that Mrs O’Kelly never wanted her do­na­tion made pub­lic.

This is the time of the year for char­ity events and there is al­ways strong de­mand for tick­ets for these kinds of things.

Yet large, long-es­tab­lished char­i­ties of­ten seem to have to work hard for sup­port.

I don’t think that it is be­cause we want some­thing tan­gi­ble to show for our sup­port, rather than these one-off or an­nual, un­der­tak­ings, so sup­port­ing them is ef­fec­tively a fi­nite ef­fort.

The ‘prob­lem’ with other char­i­ties is that there are so many le­git­i­mate and wor­thy causes that it’s hard to pick one over another. Do I sup­port a lo­cal, na­tional or over­seas cause and, in the lat­ter case, emer­gency relief, a vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme or in­fras­truc­tural in­vest­ment?

The other is­sue is that they al­ways need more, so the job is never done. That can be off­putting to some.

How­ever, it is no ex­cuse for not help­ing. Nor are the real and le­git­i­mate con­cerns of over­seas aid be­ing mis­man­aged. We can’t wait for politi­cians to sort it all out, though we should put pres­sure on them to do so.

If you don’t want to, or can’t af­ford to give money, what about giv­ing your time?

Some peo­ple will ar­gue that rich na­tions have no obli­ga­tion to aid poor na­tions, point­ing out that it will only al­low more of them to sur­vive and re­pro­duce, putting ever greater de­mands on the world’s lim­ited food sup­ply.

How­ever, it is those of us liv­ing in rich coun­tries that pose a threat to the world’s re­source sup­ply, rather than those in poor coun­tries.

Re­search shows that as poverty de­creases, fer­til­ity rates de­cline. As in­fant mor­tal­ity de­clines, there is less need to have more chil­dren to in­sure against the like­li­hood that some will die.

I gen­uinely be­lieve the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are closer in ide­ol­ogy to El­iz­a­beth O’Kelly than the space tourists.

Please, give what you can this Christ­mas.


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