Thursday, September 26, 2013

Aid need not be either/or

The other day, I saw a Facebook post about Plan Canada. As a Foster Parent through Plan since a teenager, I know that although the cost to me is low (I started with paper route money), the effect on the recipient is vast. It provides someone a better opportunity at basic education and health in a country where such things are much less available than here.
So I was shocked by some negative replies to the post. Some didn’t believe the money actually goes where they say, that it gets pocketed by scammers. With some charitable appeals, that may be the case, but Plan is renowned for low overhead and effective long-term aid. But other comments were more pernicious, asserting that it was wrong or stupid to help other countries when there are undeniably needy people here in our own nation, even our own community.
But why must this be an either/or question? Who says showing kindness to those in other nations means turning your back on needs right here? I quickly realized this was probably an excuse put forward by selfish people who don’t really want to help anyone, at home or abroad, because if they truly cared, they would realize we can actually do both.
I know this firsthand. While I’ve supported foster children in Haiti for almost three decades, I’ve also helped people right here in my own city, through donations and volunteer time. You can write a cheque for overseas aid and you can donate to local agencies. If you can’t afford to give money or items, you can volunteer time instead. Last Sunday as part of a FruitShare team of 9 volunteers (some too young for school) I helped pick almost 600 lbs of fresh fruit from trees in Barrie, most of which went straight to the Barrie FoodBank. I’m now getting emails about the upcoming season at Out of the Cold, which is always in need of new volunteers. If you’d like to help this way, there is a new volunteer info session at 7 PM on October 3 and 8 in the Huronia room at City Hall; find out more at And since I believe private charity can’t do it all, I have spent a decade promoting policies at all levels of government to end poverty and ensure everyone’s basic needs are met.
Another friend actually helps build or supply schools, clinics, and churches in Africa. But when she’s home in Barrie, she provides free nursing services to those in need and volunteers with the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness. Rather than decide which one community to aid, she helps both.
I applaud those who provide help in any way, to any community, and I hope you ignore those naysayers who try to tear down the people doing good works just to mask their own selfishness.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Helping out your community benefits us all"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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