Culture / Ian Werrett

For just a few Pounds a month…

It was a nice relaxing evening; I put my feet up whilst clutching a nice warm brew and saw an appeal for just a few pounds a month to save the lives of dying children. The frighteningly thin children, wide-eyed staring blankly as their mothers tears swell remind us all that it takes just a few pounds to save a life. I grew slightly enraged; I have worked with dying children, desperately in need of simple goods and would never give money to one of these appeals!


At what point would you happily ask people to film your son or daughter drawing their final breaths so that they can use the footage in their campaign? Having worked with mothers in desperate situations, I can assure you that I never took a photograph showing a child in pain, out of respect. The mothers I worked with, stateless and refugee families in Southeast Asia would often protest strongly or even break down upon seeing pictures of their children in the news with captions such as ‘poor’, ‘street kids’ or any other umbrella term. Unless the mothers in these advert appeals have consented to the use of these images then the organisations are further disrespecting the people they claim to help.


One major problem in tackling poverty is the amount of stigma that exists. These adverts are promoting stereotypes that further damage the lives of people. There is poverty all over the world in many different and complex forms. All of the world’s problems do not exist in one small African village where people live in huts. Investing in Africa’s development and future could be a most profitable market and the stigma promoted by these adverts will need to be shaken off in order to maximise the potential number of investors and chances for economic growth that would allow people to work their way out of poverty.


What most concerns me about these adverts is that from experience I have seen where some of the money goes. Doing the ground work I can sadly say that international funding is some what of a lottery. Many bosses do embezzle money for themselves after receiving donations. Some International organisations have strict funding rules and monitor the use of funds carefully but still rarely see the ground work. One organisation I knew was taking International funds, perhaps from your donations and spending all the money where it was meant to go. But that didn’t affect the ideology of the organisation that saw nothing wrong with using physical force on children, leaving little ones crying for help after another beating for not doing their homework.

The TV adverts may tell us that these children are dying, and they are. A few pounds a month could make a huge difference if it’s wisely invested. But campaigns that disrespect dying children, promote stigma and throw money at problems should be shut down, not used guilt us into supporting them. There are plenty of good programs out there and many ways to make a change. Perhaps if we take the time to really educate ourselves on both the issues and the campaigns that aim to tackle them, that few pounds a month could go a lot further and make a real difference.


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