Thursday 9 March 2017

Carpenters wanted

. . . not bleeding hearts. We live on a very unequal planet: more than a billion people subsist on less that $1 a day. But be careful when you trot out that statistic because the $1/day sound-byte is about 25 years old. The Purchasing Power Parity PPP to buy a basket of enough food calories to subsist - the poverty line - is now closer to US$1.25. It's complicated but rather well explained here on the BBC. And you should know that even people teetering on the edge of starvation will spend only part of their money on subsistence; because they recognise the difference between living and existing or enduring. World Bankers suggest that as much as 40c of the precious PPP $1 goes on entertainment, education and extras.

I don't know anyone who is without compassion for the plight of people less fortunate than us in the West. But the calls on our time, money and emotional energy are so many and so varied that it is quite possible to do nothing because deciding is so difficult.  In Ireland we had a couple of high profile scandals in the charity sector  - CRC [traditionally Fianna fail] and Rehab [trad. Fine Gael] - where the managers were sucking at the teat rather more vigorously than the donors were allowed to believe . .  and the beneficiaries were not getting their fair share. The consequence was a massive fall-off in donations.

I was on my high-horse a few years ago about the iniquity of paying a €100k+ salary to a VP for Fund-raising at [enter your favourite charity here]. A pal of mine, who is a Grand Fromage in Amnesty International, raised her hand "How much did you give to the dispossessed last year?" she asked, and continued "at Amnesty, we find that the VPFR takes €100k, yes, but s/he brings in €500k for the charity". VPFRs are the sprat to catch the mackerel or the reculer pour mieux sauter for the charity sector. But I still baulk at cunning plans for fund-raising that involve shipping a bunch of fat fit white folks out to walk to Machu Picchu as a fundraiser. Call me judgemental but it must cost €1000+ to get there, that's a lot of overhead which might be better send off to build a dispensary in Peru, hmmm?  The Beloved punctured my position on this at little by pointing out that the Machu Picchu walkers would be taking a holiday aNNyway and this was maybe a bit more consciousness-raising (as well as fund-raising!) than the usual two weeks in Tenerife or Florida getting alternately broiled and hammered. That accounting makes sense. Less so when Good People go to Indonesia fro 2 weeks to build huts for  the local poor people. Unless you are a time-served carpenter and able to use a hand-saw [the electricity might be intermittent], you're probably going to be more of a pair of left feet than a good pair of hands.

Young chap I know at The Institute is raising money for Concern, one of the more effective Irish 3rd World charities. 93% of their income goes on aid, advocacy, development and education while 7% is diverted to fund-raising to keep the money coming in. Only 0.4% is ear-marked for Governance. As the annual throughput is about €150 million, the Governance comes in at €600,000. ANNyway, the young chap and two of his pals is doing two things towards raising awareness and money.
1. Live on $1-a-day for 5 days during Lent
2. Going to bare-foot for 24 hours.
We won't allow him in any of The Institute labs without appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment], of course, but we are generally supportive. I think those two ideas are rather fine: not sexy, not easy, and effective in their purpose . . . I hope so anyway. I mentioned this scheme to The Beloved and she promptly gave me some folding money to pass on.  Not me, I'm too mean confused about whether that is the Optimum Way to spend my charitable allocation for 2017.

Two days later, I was leaving work on the one day when I don't have classes to 5pm. In the foyer was a table laid out with cookies and cakes that had been baked by some of our Nigerian-Irish students to raise funds for mothers and daughters back in the old country. I paused; my blood sugar was at its diurnal low and the calories called. The pause was enough for one of the girls to address me "Hey Bob, you have to give, your wife is from Nigeria, you told me in First year." I hesitated some more, but my name was called from above "Give Bob, give". I thought for a half-tick that it was God and was about to respond, like Samuel, with "Speak Lord, thy servant heareth" but a turn revealed my Head of Department and the School Administrator having tea on the balcony overlooking. Caught in such a pincer-movement I could do no other than bring out my wallet.

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