Thursday, 3 July 2014

Understanding The Concept Of Charity – Part 1

by Benson Agoha
How often have we heard it from friends that “Charity begins at home”.  I have heard so much about such statements in recent months, and each time, always felt a need to diverge.

Interacting with members of the public is, perhaps, one of the best ways to learn of, and potentially alter skewed perspectives - and there are lots out there.

During my field runs in recent weeks, I have been privileged to meet and chat with people of all races and creed, listening to them, answering their questions and attempting to, where necessary, shape their opinion.

This piece on Charity, part of my ‘Paradoxes Of Divergent Views’ series, has therefore, been motivated by that experience.

The Nature Of Charity:
Charity is the act of willfully extending benevolence to others, a conscious act and decision made by a willing heart, without expecting a reward. In this regard, it is safe to say that Charity is a one way act.

In fact it is its one-way nature that makes it unique and invaluable. And it is this nature that places an exclusive right of decision on the part of the giver.

Why Must We Show Charity:
When they say “Charity begins at home”, I disagree because, I believe it originates from the heart. And have consistently argued, and hopefully convinced some that, charity begins not from home, but from the heart.

Charity begins with the inward recognition of a need to show compassion to others – known or unknown. In this regard, charity does not start with the individuals who are shouting about their problems.

Everyone has a `problem’ of a sort, said a sage. But charity starts with those who play down their own problems, in other to extend compassion to, and help others.

And this explains why some people set aside an allocation for that purpose - without anyone actually having to ask.

Charity Decisions:
The question of whether or not to help an individual or group, though still personal, has over the years, been gradually made somewhat obligatory.

As society embraces charity for its positive contributions, leaders have managed to persuade Faithfuls that, assisting others is ‘ideal`, and ‘positively rewarding’. Never mind that, often times, fundraisers are hardly able to find the right answers, when confronted with such questions as “..what of me, who will help me?”

WHOM/How Much To Give:
Although some fundraisers put a `lowest’ benchmark on how much they expect from donors, it is the exception, rather than the rule and should be used only under specific situations, such as where the capacity and willingness of donors can be relatively ascertained.

Genuine charity should have no `lowest or highest benchmark’ and donors should only give according to their feeling, desires or willingness.

In a recent conversation with one person in Camberwell, I argued that donations should not be a matter of compulsion, and should only be made conveniently, by `willing hearts' and `able donors’. This way, the wheel of free-giving will not be clogged up.

Of course, as an exception, when caps are placed on charity donations by fundraisers, compensatory remarks of gratitude must be on hand to `nudge on' affected donors.

And as with how much to give, whom or where to give is also at the potential donor's discretion.
Donors can even make, and are at liberty to prescribe specific beneficiaries, or projects to which they desire their donations to be directed.
Will The Donation Be Used Well?
The question of whether fundraisers actually use the money well, is always difficult to answer, and not in the least helped by the fact that incessant reports of abuses by some fundraisers abound.
Unfortunately, some of the accusations are also peddled by those who do not understand fully the scale of a fundraiser's project. And so not all such claim are substantiated.

And big charity projects are sometimes, even executed through multi-agency co-operation, where each agency undertakes to be responsible for a segment of the project.
During my recent runs, I was faced with the argument that some charity workers abroad collect the monies at home and go there to `waste it' on big four-runners.

While this allegation maybe difficult to disprove, especially with no specific case pointed out, it is pertinent to state that the Jeeps might have, also been provided by a donor as their own contribution to the project. And the driver, might just have been a volunteer giving free time.

To continue reading click here [ Understanding The Concept of Charity Part 2 ].

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