Describing yourself as a philanthropist evokes a number of very positive images. Nowadays, the majority of celebrities are labelled as philanthropists and we often take the word to mean that they spend their time, as well as their money in their pursuit to help others. If you strip back all the cultural associations and examine the true meaning of the word, it simple means a desire to help others and is usually expressed through financial generosity. Wanting to help and injecting cash into a charity or benevolent project is of course a wonderful way to live your life and speaks volumes about your generosity, but is it enough? Can we turn the world around just by thinking the right thoughts and regular direct debit payments to our chosen charities?
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pike
What about poverty?
Charities and organisations such as Oxfam, The Borgen Project, Village Reach and Action Against Hunger do invaluable work in their efforts to reduce world hunger. Researching these charities, finding out where your money will go and supporting them if you choose to is a very positive step. It should however, ideally be the first step of many. If you really feel passionately about making a difference then find other ways to address the issue. Many people wrongly assume that poverty is a problem that affects distant lands, this vast distance means that sending money seems like the main solution.
According to statistics, almost half of the world’s population live on less than $2.50 a day. UNICEF has reported that 22,000 children die because of poverty on a daily basis. 1 in every 2 children in the world’s lives are affected by poverty. Poverty is not just an issue that affects developing countries . It happens everywhere. In 2014, 14.8% of Americans were classed as living in poverty. According to Child Poverty Action Group, 1 in 4 British children are affected by poverty. In the United Arab Emirates 19.5% of the population are living below the poverty line.
“Rather than being a human, be a humanitarian” Kowtham Kumar K
So what can we do to reduce poverty?
Aside from donating money, there are practical steps that we can take to reduce poverty:
- Support the living wage
When it comes to fair pay we need to fight for a living wage and not a minimum wage. We need to ensure that everyone is paid enough so that they can provide for their family. If we employ others, we can implement this. We can challenge every company that we do business with, whether they are small sole traders or large corporations, ask them about their policies regarding paying their employees. We can buy from independent businesses where possible, purchasing from self-starters. If you buy a piece of art or invest in a product or service from someone ask them how many hours it took them and pay them accordingly. Aside from this, we can write to our senators, MPs and representatives demanding that they take action and asking them to vote for the living wage.
- Get involved on a personal level
Visit your local homeless shelter and volunteer your time, get to know the people there and listen to their stories. Collect valuable items for your local homeless shelter or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Is there a food bank in your area? If not, you could consider setting one up. If there is one, then find out what they are collecting and start contributing. You could take a good look at your weekly grocery bill and decide to reduce it by a realistic percentage. Use the extra money to put towards your contribution for the food bank.
- Get involved in education
Many children are born into poverty and lack the resources to get out, they spend their lives as part of a low-income community where illness, unemployment and drug addiction is common. Think what resources and skills you have. Could you teach young people anything valuable that could help them to turn their lives around? Are there youth centres in under-privileged areas that you could contact and offer to run workshops or sessions? You could teach valuable life skills and show these children that there are choices outside the life they are accustomed to. You could also contact local schools, mentoring organisations and youth charities. Teaching children basic life skills and ways to make their own money is so important and is vital in developing countries too. Could you help to build a school in Africa? Building schools take time as well as money, what can you offer?
Another important aspect of education is in cultivating the desire to help and the skills to do so in our own children and the young people that we know. Encourage your children to help you collect items for a food bank, talk about what you are doing and why.
- Get vocal
Build a community of like-minded people and share all the resources you have. Share ideas, petitions, thought provoking articles and relevant news stories over social media. Educate people who aren’t fighting to make a difference and ensure that you are well-read and informed so that you can answer any questions that people may throw at you. Become an expert!
- Use your resources
Could you offer summer job opportunities for children from low income families, or could you arrange something like this in your local community? Gaining work experience, understanding money and understanding the concept of being rewarded for your work are all aspects of work that are important for young people to understand. Just a few weeks of employment over the summer could help them greatly. This concept can also be applied to apprenticeships. Do you have the resources to train someone in a trade or could you arrange for this to happen? Liaise with local schools and businesses to forge relationships.
- Mindful/conscious shopping
Everything that we buy, has a story but sadly, many of us forget where things come from and how they are made. Whether you are buying a new pair of shoes or picking up coffee in the supermarket, you can make a real difference by opting for ethical brands. Committing to products that practise fair and ethical trade means that you helping to contribute to a community. You are doing your bit to ensure that the people in the shoe factories and the coffee fields are receiving living wages and have a decent job without risk or threat. These simple choices should not be seen as one off purchases, they can change lives. Fair trade products are better for the environment and of a better quality too. Ethical purchases help to sustain local communities and help workers to provide for their families, meaning better chances of a decent education and more healthcare options. Coffee, tea, chocolate, flowers, spices, rice, clothes, shoes, sugar and gifts are all items that offer fair and ethical trade alternatives. Next time you buy something, think of the bigger picture and engage in some conscious shopping.
“I don’t wish to be successful but I definitely wish to be successful in helping someone, sometime for something good.” Manasa Rao Saarloos
Foreign aid isn’t enough
For the third world, foreign aid in the form of money is not enough. We need systems in place to improve sanitation, water supplies, infrastructures and education. We need to teach the younger generations life skills that will help them to find a life away from poverty. We need to establish decent medical facilities, offer technical assistance and find long term solutions to poverty that has lasted for generations. Talk to charities and organisations that work in developing countries, consider what you have to offer, find ways to get involved.
“The man who dies rich dies disgraced leaving the earth without making it better than he met it. Give to humanity.” Adedayo Olabamiji
It’s a community issue
Incidents of poverty are rarely isolated and tend to affect whole communities. This is why it is so important to build skills that can be passed on, to create adequate housing, schooling and hospitals. Education doesn’t just need to be targeted at children but at the whole community. Whether you want to help your local community or communities from other countries, pooling our resources and giving more than money is the way to become a true philanthropist and to really make a difference during your time on earth.
“Philanthropy simply means love of what it means to be human.” Valaida Fullwood
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