Charity begins at home

As far back as I can remember, my parents have helped people around them. This to me, became part of life. I learnt that you have to help people whenever you can. Fast forward many years later when I am working for a big international organization. The organization would have a campaign drive and ask staff members to make donations to their chosen charity on an approved list.

My region, Africa, always had the lowest amount of donations. This happened every year and one year I was one of the organizers for my region. We decided to do a small informal research on why Africa was always at the bottom. The answers we got were all the same. Staff members said they were de facto charitable organizations themselves as they were paying school fees for orphaned nieces and nephews, helped take of their parents’ financial needs, paid for relatives’ chronic medical needs, etc. They said they were already so far stretched already that they could not afford to help any more people. Another thing they said was that their assistance to others was not tabulated for all to see, so it seemed as if they were not doing anything. They further said that their ‘Western colleagues’ helped others once a year, made a lot of noise about it and told everybody what they had done. I found this very interesting, especially the latter part because that is the feeling I have as well, but I know I may be wrong.

One thing I sometimes do not understand it why people from the west seem keen to take up causes in poorer countries, make noise about it and then help in a very public way. Why don’t they first start in their backyards and then go out to e.g. Zambia to help? I have, after all, been told that “Charity begins at home”. Again, I may be wrong since I did not do any research on this, but I think that sometimes people overlook disadvantaged areas in their western countries and rush to help poor countries.

What do you think?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wholeproduction
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 16:33:29

    Yep! I think that all good morals should starts at home. People should wait on some organization to do it for them ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Robyn
    Nov 07, 2014 @ 03:17:27

    I think this is a great point. I’ve thought of this often myself, especially when I see so many homeless children on the street. Why doesn’t charity start at home? On the other hand, I feel that if a cause inspires someone to take action, then who am I to judge? I appreciate anyone willing to donate time/money/energy/thought to makes someone else’s life better. One of the issues is that the options are overwhelming, so the organizations with that make the biggest emotional impact are the ones most likely to draw compassionate hearts to them.


    • zambianlady
      Nov 07, 2014 @ 18:18:25

      You are right, Robyn, that we should not judge when someone decides to give in a certain way. I am coming from the fact that my main issue is that we (i.e. us Africans) were made to feel that we were not doing enough just because we did not give as much during the annual drive. Yes, we mainly help our families but we also made donations quietly and so we were either too stretched to give more or we felt that we had done our part already.

      Thanks for the comment ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. jedib
    Nov 05, 2014 @ 08:19:05

    This is really interesting. Does your observation about people bragging about their charities here in Austria? In my own experience (which is my own little impression, not backed by research or the like) there is quite a difference between various Western countries about how people, who help, present themselves. It might be changing a bit now, but as a child I was always told that bragging about any kind of accomplishment is a bad thing, which is very different from what I experienced in some other countries.

    As for charity, I often get frustrated with people in my home town, for example, because they seem to focus a little bit too much on their own backyard. They would not donate in cases of humanitarian crises in other parts of the world, because they only want to help people in their own country, feeling like they have no connection or no responsibility for what happens outside our national borders. Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that we should watch out for people around us, but I also would like to see more awareness of the fact that there is a world beyond the borders of our tiny and rich country.


    • zambianlady
      Nov 07, 2014 @ 18:05:12

      Thanks for your comment. My experience was with colleagues in the another country – not Austria, so maybe the way the go about giving and later announcing it is different from here. You are right that there should be a balance between us giving those in our backyard and those far.


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