Give a (wo)man a fish and you feed him(/her) for a day.
Teach a (wo)man to fish and feed him(/her) for a lifetime.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the 15 small ways you’ve made the world a better place.
But what if you want to do more?
There are about 50 bajillion problems that need solving in the world, and 20 gazillion charities you can throw money at. But which ones? What to do?
It’s all very well to give cash, but you can’t eat money. Unless you can be sure that something useful is being done with the money, you may as well keep it and buy another coffee – at least that’s stimulating trade somewhere in the world.
I’ve come up with a novel approach – let’s ask our budding fisherwoman what she actually needs. We’re going to teach her to fish, so she can change her life. How do we do that?
I’d like you to meet Mabel. Mabel-the-future-fisherwoman.
‘Hey Mabel, I want to help you, what do you need?’
‘Well, actually I’m starving hungry and haven’t eaten in days. I can’t really think about learning to fish on an empty belly.’
The basic necessities
Think food, water, shelter. The very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s all very well to want to help communities to build their skills and economy and help themselves, but they can’t do it if they’re starving to death.
‘But I don’t know how to catch fish.’
‘Oh, good point. We’d better find someone to teach you.’
Often the same charities which address the basic necessities also sponsor education programs. They know that education is absolutely essential to lifting people out of poverty and empowering them to change their lives.
The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program is a great example. The Smith Family works in Australian communities to provide comprehensive ‘emotional, practical and financial support to help disadvantaged children and young people with their education’.
CARE Australia has a strong focus on education in the developing world. They believe that ‘Educating women and girls provides the single highest return on investment in the developing world.‘ Helping one woman out of poverty will bring four others out with her.
Then there are charities which focus solely on education in specific countries, such as All Kids. They run a sponsorship program where $25.00 per month will allow a child in Cambodia access to education.
‘But I’m a woman. My government will put me in jail if they find out I’ve been going to school.’
Freedom to learn
Unfortunately, even money and resources are not enough in some parts of the world. War and politics combine to prevent people from getting an education and building a foundation for self-sustenance.
It’s easy to throw our hands up and say ‘Well, I can’t stop a war for you, Mabel! I can’t change the laws in your country!’ And walk away.
Funnily enough, though, this is actually one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do to make a difference. It’s also a cause I’m passionate about.
Amnesty International has been campaigning for women’s rights in Afghanistan since 2001. There has been some improvement, including increased access to education.
How can you help? Back in 1992 when I first started helping out with Amnesty International you had to actually write letters on paper, put them in an envelope and take them to the post office. These days you don’t even have to write anything. You can just sign their online petitions. It may seem hard to believe, but it really does work.
Other ways to help out include joining a local action group or donating.
Mabel completes her fishing qualification and finds a great place to set up her fishing business.
She runs into another problem.
‘I’ve got a great idea for running a fishing business but I need to buy a fishing rod and tackle. And after a while I’d like to take on an apprentice to expand my business and help others get work to feed their families. But I don’t have any money to get started.’
Microfinance – getting businesses started
This last one is really very cool. It’s not charity in the sense of ‘giving money’. It’s loaning money. Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.
So far I’ve lent $25 to:
- Sosefina from Samoa to buy thread, needles, material, measuring tape, hangers and manikins
- Toba from Iraq to buy an embroidery machine and over sewing machine
- Faith from Zimbabwe to purchase more clothes for her retail business.
At the moment I lend another $25 each month and, after a while, the loans will start being repaid to me. I can then lend that money on to someone else.
Like the sound of it? Start your own Kiva loan portfolio.
And a big thanks to Bruce from Big Family, Little Income for putting me on to them.
Where to start?
I was given some great advice when it comes to supporting charities – pick one. Just one. And stick with it.
I don’t think it really matters which stage you decide to help with, they’re all necessary and they all need help. Pick a cause you’re passionate about and find a charity that you feel makes a real difference. Then support it. Give as much time or money as you can afford.
I used to volunteer at the Amnesty International head office for a day each week for a whole year when I was at uni. I had no money but I had plenty of time.
Now I loan $25 a month through Kiva because I have no time and not a whole lot of money either, but I can afford that $25 a month. And it will come back to me and I can lend it again.
How will you help the world learn to fish?
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Take care & thanks for reading.