Misrepresentation

Dear friends

Redbirds

Sorry for the radio silence – throat razored by some unknown (and antibiotic resistant) beastie, and unable to stay awake after about 9pm.

Still, it’s nothing really is it? I mean, when you think of all those starving kids in Africa…Hmmm!

I was brought up short recently, by a gentle, funny satire about the way we  use stereotyping to raise funds for our chosen causes.  Radi-Aid, with its story of collecting radiators in Africa so that the people in Norway won’t freeze, makes me wonder if I don’t owe Africa a huge apology.  The caption next to the Radi-Aid video asks, “Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway”-video, and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?” Do click on the link – it’s really well done.

Are your impressions of Africa that it’s a vast wilderness of drought and corruption, HIV and famine?  And have I helped to  shape those impressions?  Be assured,  they are not representative of this richly diverse and enormous continent.

Kenya with your tribal art and music, your truly breathtaking landscapes, your incomparable beaches, the almost indescribable Rift Valley, and Mount Kenya and your lakes.  The list never ends: your wildlife; the mind-boggling migration of wildebeest, and above all, your people; their languages; traditions and their history going back into prehistory – our hominid ancestors.

Ah! Kenya, beautiful Kenya!  Still when I emerge from your slums, my visions are of hopelessness and despair, illegal alcohol stills, hunger, cholera and discarded children.  I don’t see your beauty then.

I know these aren’t Kenyan problems – they’re world problems.  Cardboard cities; drugs in schools; children abused; the elderly ignored; the different feared and pushed to the side…Europe…America (North and South)…Asia…

We paint a partial picture, a close-up, a light in a shadowy corner, that’s all.  But the more I think about it, the more I realise that, as long as we don’t distort the truth – painting it worse than it really is – it isn’t wrong.

Even though it’s not representative, not even of the slums, it’s absolutely true of where we are working.  And it’s what charities do – publicising needs to raise aid.  It’s tourist boards who get to promote all the good things – lucky them!
And as long as they do their job as well as we do ours, we’ll get a better view of Kenya.  And everywhere else.

Daughters and what I believe

Hi everyone

Ian here again – fresh from a row with my 13 year old about…werewolves.

She says, “All my friends watch films about werewolves, what’s the problem?”

I don’t say, “You’re right.  It’s pap and you should be doing your homework, but it probably won’t kill you”.  Instead I talk to her about what we believe, our values and our faith and she storms upstairs.

I assume, when I’m not here she will return to her movie.  I’ll never know, and I suspect no harm will come of it (unless she gets caught!)  So what’s the point of raising all that blood pressure?

I have the same question about Giraffe. I like this project (not like I love my daughter, but, you know, still quite a lot).  The motivation for Giraffe is a Christian one; helping the poor (of any faith and none) based on an understanding of what the Bible teaches on that matter.

But clearly anyone can help the poor.  My faith is my driver, but it’s certainly not the only one.  I was listening to a debate on the causes of poverty on the BBC website last night Why poverty? Part 1 If nothing else, it made me realise how little I understand about this complex subject, and maybe how little anyone really understands it.

But I do know that thousands of adherents to other faiths, as well as those who profess none, have concern for the poor hard-wired into their DNA, and are far more effective than I am at understanding and addressing the problems of poverty.

Leaving divine intervention aside (something I freely acknowledge is hard to do and probably even foolish to contemplate if you believe in an intervening God), does it matter why you do things, or is it important just to do them?

In fact, can it actually cause problems?

Some faith-based charities advertise clearly what prompts them.  Others are silent on the matter. Some argue there is a captive donor base within the faith which they profess, and others are equally convinced that by staying neutral they will appeal to a wider donor base.  Who’s right?

Equally, where does that  leave the faith-based donors confronted with a faith-based charity that  is ineffective and a secular one that is outstanding?  I know I would prefer to donate to the outstanding one, but I and many like me would still wonder…and maybe give to the other one from some sense of attachment.

You see I’m pretty clear about what I want for my daughter. (As I write this she’s now perched on the arm of my chair and she says she’s OK with it.  And the blog).  If it means a few skirmishes along the way, I consider it absolutely worthwhile for her well-being.

But I’m much less sure about the charity.  So, if anyone is listening, “Does it really matter why we do it, as long as we do it”?

Thanks for reading