In December 2013, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF UK) released their latest world survey on giving, volunteering and helping strangers. The 'World Giving Index 2013' ranked South Africa 69 out of 135 countries surveyed. The full report published here http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/WorldGivingIndex2013_1374AWEB.pdf found that South Africans are more likely to give of their time than they are of their money.
why is it that we hold on tighter to our money than we do to our time,
and of what benefit is this to charities who are in much need of both?
Well the simple answer is that as a nation, the infestation of
corruption that has filtered into every aspect of our lives starting
from our political leadership at the top down to our civil servants and
ordinary citizens at the bottom has placed huge negative connotations on
anything that relates to money and our dispensing of it. According to
the Washington Post, only one-third of all monies donated to charities
actually ends up with the poor, the homeless and the destitute. That's
their best case scenario.
The bulk of the money, or at the very
least 70% of it, goes toward running the charity (think admin, rentals,
salaries, advertising etc). Put in Rands and Cents terms, that equates
to just 30 cents of every Rand actually ending up with the people who
need it most!
That right there is the problem I have with donating money to charities.
taking anything away from the really great work that charities do, and
taking into account that the vast pool of funds they receive in
donations does allow them to charter planes and ships laden with food,
medical and other emergency supplies to relief and disaster zones, there
is something to be said about seeing the smile upon the face of the
person you've just helped out directly.
Gift Of The Givers is a fine
example of a charity that has been built on a reputation of focusing on
the needy and dismissing the greedy. They have been First Responders to
natural disasters both in South Africa and across the world, and rival
such giants in the field as the Red Cross and MSF (Medecins Sans
Many amongst us misconstrue the word 'Charity' and
assume it to mean only 'the giving of money to the poor.' There's a
very good reason why the World Giving Index includes not only financial
donations, but also donations of one's time as well as the act of
helping a stranger. Some of the poorest countries in the world rank
amongst the Top 50 nations on the index, justifiably so because their
societies promote social donations of time and selfless help.
Those are the facts and they speak for themselves.
Naysayers would advocate restraint to any and all forms of monetary
donations, citing dependency by those less fortunate on those doing the
giving. I've read reports by credible journalists and NGO's who speak of
the very culture of begging and how easily it can be manipulated by
those out to feed their greed instead of a need. The public ultimately
becomes desensitized to the plight of the poor, the homeless and the
destitute because there is the very real sense that our donations,
although intended for a good cause, may simply be feeding a lifestyle of
dependency on charity. The downside to this is that the woman at the
robot desperate for a few rands to feed her family or pay her rent or do
any one of a hundred things that her very survival depends upon, the
very same things we would take for granted on any given day, is simply
dismissed with a wave of our hands.
It was a breath of fresh air
than to receive an invite to be part of an initiative that aimed to
accomplish so many great things under one single humanitarian umbrella.
To be part of a cause that would clothe the homeless.
To restore the dignity and pride of those who have it stripped from them on a daily basis.
To actually see hopelessness and uncertainty be replaced by hope and gratitude on the smiling faces of the homeless.
To being an activator within my community, moving people toward active participation in a common cause.
To be able to achieve all of this without asking anybody to open their wallets, only their hearts and cupboards.
You may have heard of The Street Store.
Their website found here http://thestreetstore.org/
explains exactly why they have such a huge fan base. People finally
have the opportunity to get involved without ever wondering if their
donations enriched any lives. They get to see the answer on the faces of
the homeless. This is what I loved most about this initiative. It's not
about the money. It's about having people who have been overlooked by
society and stripped of all dignity, feel like they are worthy once
again. The simple act of 'shopping' for free clothing on the day and
being spoken to like a person, being attended to like a gentleman or a
lady, being served upon by others just for this one day which they may
never experience again, is more uplifting and rewarding to them than all
the coins we could fling out our windows as we drive casually by at the
The initiative was a huge success in Cape Town, as it's
been in other parts of the world. 19 July see's it finally arriving in
Johannesburg, and the response so far has been nothing short of
I chatted to Sumaya Hendricks, the organizer of this event and this is what she had to say.
are various elements of the project which I find appealing. Although
the 'coolness' of the idea is attractive and draws people to the
initiative, there is something much deeper to it. The people who we are
going to be helping might be someone we ignored at a robot or
perhaps condescendingly looked at as we felt they could do more to help
themselves. Yet, at the street store, we are going to give them our
time, a smile and treat them with the kind of respect they deserve but
don't often get. They will become people in our eyes when often we see
and treat them otherwise. So they will be helping us as much as we will
be helping them - we have become so immune to poverty and hopefully this
will help us to connect to those in need and act as a springboard to do
more in our communities."
Remember that word 'Ubuntu'?
I know what I will be doing this Mandela Day.
"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."
Albert Pike (1809-1891)