Sunday, November 20, 2011

Charity with a conscience.

Someone told me today that this week is Men's Mental Health Week. I haven't checked yet but it's probably true. Last month we had Movember, which was straight after Ocsober, and don't forget that this month we have Buy Nothing Day coming up and Human Rights Week in early December.

It's starting to irk me. While I have no objection to highlighting issues, dilemmas, people and facets in society, I absolutely abhor the marketing that goes along with it. Some of these awareness days come without pressure to buy (obviously Buy Nothing Day is one of those) but so many now come with merchandise attached and it's getting annoying.

Which doesn't mean I don't buy it!

I currently own enough coloured ribbons to make a rhythmic gymnast jealous, enough message filled rubber bangles to fill more arms than there are in this house and have a collection of pins and pens that rivals Officeworks. Is it just me? Am I the only one who feels guilty walking past a table full of Red Cross merchandise in front of IGA or a shelf full of Autism Awareness items at the bank?

If there was no guilt attached via labelling I wouldn't own any of those things and instead would probably have more money to actually donate directly to the cause.

Frankly, we should always be asking our friends and neighbours 'R U OK?'. We should be getting regular check-ups to ensure prostate cancer, breast cancer or diabetes is diagnosed early enough to manage or eradicate. We should always respect and admire our Grandparents and be aware of ADHD, Autism and human rights violations.

Does anyone remember the days when you bought something you actually NEEDED in a shop and the store would donate 10c or something similar to a cause they chose? I could put my change in a bucket or a plastic dog and know that I was helping out. Now I receive multiple phone calls every month (yes, I know I can go on the registry to ban these calls but if I don't buy the tickets it's obvious that fires in rural areas will get out of control!), am latched onto in shopping centres by crazed activists and have to run the gauntlet of merchandise in places where things are not usually sold.

It's getting harder to have a conscience. Harder still to remember which cause we are supposed to be thinking of today. Frankly, it's getting harder to care.

So, in the spirit of giving with Christmas on it's way, this week I am making a new pact. I will not buy a single item of merchandise marketed by a cause. I will instead put the same amount of money in the slot, without taking any unnecessary, environmentally disastrous item home with me. From now on I will only buy pink things if I really need them.

I will remember to look after my physical and mental health and remind those I care about to do the same. Call my grandparents regularly and continue to encourage our politicians to support reforms in our country and others where human rights need work.

Passive charity is not as effective as you might think. It's certainly easier. It's still much more effective to actively give. To seek out organisations you have a passion for and find out how you can contribute to their cause. It's not even that's just not as easy as buying pens.

This Christmas, give some money to Kiva for a loan that helps start small businesses in areas of need. Use Oxfam Unwrapped to buy gifts that help save lives instead of buying useless kitchen items for those we love, believe me they won't be offended. Better still, donate to Wall Of Hands which teaches literacy skills to Indigenous children in Australia, or donate to Jack Thompsons Foundation, which funds the Homelands Housing Program (where Indigenous Australians are taught how to build homes on their land using the 'living ground'. The living ground is the materials found directly on the land the house will sit. Soil, wood, rocks etc...) or if you have a specific area you are interested in, donate there.

This Christmas, and every day until and after then, lets make a difference - minus the merchandise.

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