Should charity always begin at home?

I have been thinking about this blog post for the past few days. The title was really difficult as it’s about more than charity beginning at home but I’ve gone with the title for now.. I don’t expect a lot of people to agree with all of this blog post but I have tried to balance my views as best I can and to be honest it’s solely my opinion, I accept there are differing arguments but here goes!

So over the past few days my timeline on Twitter and Facebook seems to be a little focused on the Band Aid 30 single. I have conflicting views about the single.

The positive side of the single is that it is raising awareness and raising money. Some people don’t have an awareness about ebola. Some think it is affecting the whole of Africa. Some don’t know the effects and impacts of ebola. I don’t blame those people but the single is raising that awareness and I definitely had a lump in my throat when I saw the video on the X Factor for the first time. Not the video showing the singers but the 7 seconds of a young person being escorted from their home. The sight of their stained bed and weak body is something that has stuck in my head and although I have already donated to the DEC, it has made me want to buy the single.

The single is raising money. A lot of money. Some people have mentioned that if all singers parted with some of their earnings then they wouldn’t need to expect members of the public to part with their hard earned cash. I see the point but I have a bit of a problem with this argument. How do we know that the singers haven’t parted with some of their money to donate to charities already? We know how much they have earned but I’m not personally privy to their expenditure accounts and doubt people who are judging them do as well. Adele made a private donation in response to the ebola crisis, why do we not think the same about other celebs? It’s also their money to spend how they wish.

I have charities that I donate to and others that I wouldn’t for various reasons. Why should celebs be dictated to about where they spend their money? In reality a pop singer’s career nowadays is relatively short lived. Can you see One Direction being around in their sixties? Fifties?  A singer’s life is not private. I go home after work and it’s my time. Before I hear the sound of violins, don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel sorry for them because they get paid. They get paid for being in the public eye. Would I swop the relative privacy of my own life to be worth £35 million living with the constant fear that one single, one album will flop or another girlband will appear on the scene and my career will end? No thanks, I’ll carry on with my own job. Not that I would say no to winning the lottery and gaining £35 million. I wouldn’t dream of saying to a friend not to buy an expensive iphone as she could get a standard phone and give the £200 to charity.

Another criticism is about the single’s lyrics. Do I think the lyrics could be worded differently? Yes. Do I think that there should be a better way to highlight the fact that the whole of Africa is not affected? Definitely. Could the single be deemed to be slightly patronising by saying that the proceeds of the single will eradicate ebola? Absolutely. Is there an alternative to raise as much money in as short as space as possible, highlighting what is going on around the world and providing money to help those who are affected? I would love there to be but I’m struggling to see another option to be honest.

Another comment is about the artists. By the way I think it was wrong of Bob Geldof to highlight Adele wasn’t involved. I hadn’t even clicked she had been on the initial announcement. It was her choice and she has done plenty of charitable events in the past. There probably is an element that it is good to be seen to doing things for charity. Are people always altruistic when supporting charities? I’m sure there are some people who are. There are plenty who aren’t. A comment was made that nobody knows the artist unless they are under 30. I’m 32 and knew all of the artists. My dad who is 60 knew most of them. Are we not ‘normal’?

Another comment is that charity should begin at home. I agree…I’d love to live in a country where everybody is living well above the poverty line, there is no homelessness, no hunger, no unemployment. However the reality is that if you compare the poverty line with a third world country poverty line along with the sheer numbers involved, who is to say that we shouldn’t have an obligation to help both those in our country and those abroad? They didn’t choose to be born in that country. I didn’t choose to be born in this one. In another world I could be that child on television aid appeals. I went to Egypt which is a relatively poor country. The overwhelming feeling I had is that people were poor, they were asking for money, they didn’t want to ask for money but they took it because they needed to feed their family. Yes, we should be looking at our country, campaigning for change but I don’t think we should use the state of our economy as a reason to just stop international aid. I also wonder at how many of those commenting have ever gone on a march to stop the cuts, written to their MP or donated themselves? I suspect a few but not all of them.

Some else commented about the fact that we have been pouring money into international aid for years and have seen no real change. The same person also commented that it is similar to pouring money into cancer research. Just because the news and media is full of negative stories rather than highlighting positives doesn’t mean that things haven’t changed over the years. It’s slow admittedly and it would be great if things could change faster. I’d love to see news have a charity section where we see positive stories about where the money from the appeals is going and the impact from the money. It is important to remember that there is a constant fight to combat those who should be protecting people and distributing the money who are not doing their job. Is this a reason to stop international aid whilst the issues are being ‘sorted’?

I used to go to a few charity balls where big corporates were invited. Chief execs were in attendance and willing to splash their cash on one night. I said to someone that it upset me as they probably only thought about splashing their cash on one night of the year and weren’t bothered what happened to that money. The response which stuck in my head was, did it matter when the cash still came in? Do the people who are supported by the money care where the money comes from? If the aim of the event ie to raise money to help those in need is achieved, shouldn’t that be what matters?

It also put a bad taste in my mouth when I saw one comment saying that if Bob Geldof had spent more time on the drug problems within his own family then he wouldn’t have lost his daughter. Would people say the same to working parents in the street who had recently lost their son/daughter to drugs? I doubt it.

Love it or hate it, the single is raising money for charity. I agree that you all have a choice to buy it. I agree that the words and delivery could have been improved. I sadly don’t see another option but then I’m not a humanitarian expert. I wish I was. As some one recently posted on Twitter, if you want to support those in Africa, support African exports, African artists. I’d prefer to do both but that’s just me. My husband is from Africa, his country is rich but his country is being split into two at the moment. My proudest moment was when the UK voted for a no flight zone in Libya. I cried buckets mainly because in a time when people are struggling, people can still band together and recognise that others may need more help at a particular moment in time. I love Twitter still. It has opened my eyes and I have tried to be balanced. I may not have succeeded.

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