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Charity Begins At Home? Or Does It?

Thursday, April 8, 2010
Posted in: random ramblings, rant

This email has been doing the rounds on the web of late:

Shame on you GREAT BRITAIN..we have children going to bed without eating..elderly going without needed medicines..mentally ill without treatment..troops without proper equipment..yet we donate millions to other countries before helping our own first..99% ppl wont have the guts to copy and repost this.!!!!!! WILL YOU ???

I’ve seen various versions of the same email, some that begin with “Shame on you AMERICA”, etc.

If I’m honest, I don’t get it.

I understand the concept of charity beginning at home, but it seems to me that people comparing poverty in the West, to poverty in third world countries are either off their heads or off their meds. Or both.

The fact is, poverty is relative. A poverty-stricken child in England just cannot be compared to a poverty-stricken child in Sudan.

As far as I’m concerned, children going to bed without eating in the UK, is often down to parents who are either too strung out on drugs and alcohol to care, or too selfish and lazy to want to provide adequately for their kids, in which case, the government usually intervenes. Now compare that with the fate of the children who were unfortunate enough to be born into squalor and poverty, the likes of which, few of us in the West are familiar with.

The elderly going without meds? I’m sorry, but this is total bullshit. The elderly get free meds over here. The system isn’t perfect in the UK, but it still doesn’t really compare to the plight of elderly people in the most ravaged parts of the world.

Troops going without proper equipment? Quite frankly, we entered into this war without a proper exit strategy. This has led to billions of pounds being spent on fighting a war that is beginning to look increasingly, un-winnable. The money has to come from somewhere, and with so many people out of work, and the current economic situation, the military budget, along with other public spending is inevitably going to be impacted.

Mentally ill going without treatment? Whilst this is true in some cases, in my experience, the ones who go without treatment are the ones who refuse to be helped. Unless these people commit actual crimes, there’s only so many times you can section them under the Mental Health Act. Also, in most cases, somebody has to notify the authorities if they suspect that a person has mental problems, and unless it’s reported, how are the authorities meant to help?

There are lots of Brits who will nod vigorously at the points raised in the email above, but as far as I’m concerned, this kind of bullshit only encourages xenophobia.

There have been some key times in history that we as a nation have needed help from others. Where would we be if those countries had decided to turn their backs on us?

What say you?


  • I ignore manipulative attempts at guilt trips from people that I know … you can imagine what I do with those attempts from people I don’t… not to mention the fact that I consider that a political statement (reeks of ultra conservative to me). All of those things have been happening in the US.

    And I agree with you, btw.


  • Sparkindarkness
    April 8
    11:27 am

    Personlly I’m with you. I give to international charities or to niche chairties targetting groups forgotten by the mainstream.

    Because charity doesn’t begin at home. Because home is pretty damn amazing. We have welfare systems, housing, the NHS, active and powerful charities. That’s not to say there aren’t horrendous, revoluting problems at home that desperately need fixing and people suffering horrendously in Britain – there are.

    But that is rather eclipsed by the horrors we see in the third world.

    I’m with you – this email is xenophobic in the extreme. I’d rather help the people who need it the most, than help people just because they live in the same country as me

    (And elderly going without meds? Do they even live here?)


  • Poverty is poverty and suffering is suffering. I’ll choose where and when I’ll donate/volunteer to help and I’ll do it without being manipulated.

    Those manipulative postings annoy the snot out of me-I see them ranging from things like this to things about faith to things about special needs children and it doesn’t matter what the subject is-I ignore them. I don’t respond to manipulation very well. o_O


  • DS
    April 8
    12:01 pm

    Most of the people I see in person ranting about charity to other countries have never voluntarily given a penny to help their neighbors anyway.


  • Kelly S. Bishop
    April 8
    12:27 pm

    When Oprah decided to open her school in S. Africa, she got a lot of that too.


  • SamG
    April 8
    2:43 pm

    I have given to local food banks. Aside from a tax deduction all I get for my efforts are pleas for more and more money. I’m telling you, if I gave what they asked, every time they asked, I’d have to join the people in line for food.

    I feel bad enough not being able to every time (though they sometimes seem to have at least a letter a week asking for more), I don’t need other people to try to ‘challenge’ or ‘guilt’ me into giving more.



  • A friend – an academic who studies global warming – once gave me some good advice. He said – never believe anything you read in the popular press. I think he may be on to something.
    In my capacity as a Hospice Nurse, I work in a very poor county here in the U.S. I see patients in drug houses, meth labs, I see the homeless, the mentally ill, the mentally challenged, and I’ve come to realize that there is help available for these people, in fact, until recent years, there was a lot of help available for these people but either they don’t know how to access it and they have no one to advocate for them or they are unwilling to ask for it.
    People make bad choices for lots of reasons and those bad choices often lead to awful consequences, not only for themselves, but for their children and their elderly parents – who perhaps made, or will make those same kinds of bad choices. It takes a lot of insight and strength to rise above your circumstances.
    However, there is no comparison – for the most part – between poverty in the Western world and poverty in portions of Africa and Asia.
    A country that does it right? Costa Rica. Good health care, quality education, well-fed populace, long life span, happy people.


  • Yeah – we get the same email in Australia. I don’t see the point of this email and I agree it fosters xenophobia. I also don’t understand emails that are supposedly written by African Americans like Bill Cosby saying African Americans are they’re own worst enemy, that they’re lazy etc – who sits at home and comes up with this divisive shit?


  • I say that only the ignorant can compare the utter hopelessness of entire generations in the poorest nations of the world to the poverty and need felt in poor areas in a first world country.


  • excivilservant
    April 9
    1:01 pm

    You obviously haven’t seen the millions that are wasted by DIFD. That money could be better spent elsewhere. I don’t believe that the government should be spending the percentage they are on so called international development when we have fiscal problems at home. None of the three main parties are willing to cut the buget. DIFD’s isn’t so much international development as salary development and building development.


  • Karen Scott
    April 9
    5:23 pm

    @Excivilservant What is the DIFD money wasted on?


  • Irony is that at least in the US, foreign aid is about 20 times less than national defense or aid to the domestic poor, yet this silly meme gets recycled every couple years, or so. Cutting foreign aid is counting on enough loose change in the couch to pay for a car.


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