Sunday, February 1

in my inbox this morning

In my inbox this morning, an invitation for the Festival of Ideas to hear Peter Singer talking about his new book The Life You Can Save : Acting Now to End World Poverty . Ive been a fan of his for 20 years since my university days. Ive posted about tithing before and Peters ideas but I have never attend a lecture of his. Im definitely going. Heres an excerpt from the invitation

According to the World Bank, 1.4 billion people live on less than US $1.25 a day,. this entails a vast amount of suffering and avoidable loss of life. The Life You Can Save : Acting Now to End World Poverty offers a solution to world poverty. If enough of us can be moved to act—to make some moderate sacrifices in our lives—huge numbers of people could be saved from death and suffering. And if the world’s wealthiest 10 per cent of people were to donate a fraction of their income, extreme poverty on a large scale could be eliminated altogether. With his trademark clarity, logic and intellectual flair, world renowned philosopher Peter Singer shows us not only that this solution is possible, but also that we have a moral obligation to be part of it.
‘Peter Singer may be the most controversial philosopher alive; he is certainly amonghe most influential'

It was the jolt i needed to do some research i had been meaning to do all week. I have just bought some new spectacles; being back at work was a shock to my eyes and i was experiencing eye strain and nausea like never before. A clever colleague suggested an eye test (this bright spark hadn't thought of THAT). So i emerged with a set of graduated lenses (bi-focals in the old language...that sounds a little over rthe hill). I keep my last pair always as a back up at work in case i forget my current ones. Now the old back up pair is not needed any longer. I had a friend who every year would trek with her optometrist husband in Nepal to reach far off villages where they would perform free eye tests and provide those that needed them, with spectacles which had been donated in Australia. It sounded like such a good idea but my researcher brain kicked in and first i wanted to know if i did donate my spectacles, was it really a good idea? Looks like there are problems but the conclusion, little research and sometimes the spectacles are not distributed correctly or efficiently but the Optometry Association of Australia supports the practce and sends glasses to nations along with an optometrist. So for now, i decided i will donate.Its easy.

Now donating my old specs isnt going to end world poverty, but it was a timely reminder to do the research on the impact of my giving and that in this current international climate of fiscal uncertainty for many in the developed/first/affluent (whatever you want to name it) world, people contract in fear and stop giving, sharing. "if world’s wealthiest 10 per cent of people were to donate a fraction of their income, extreme poverty on a large scale could be eliminated altogether" Thats US!, the worlds wealthiest 10%. Despite feeling the pinch a little with food prices and growing children, we are still donating around 15% of our income. It shocked us a little that it was this high, but when we sat down and actually worked it out, thats what we came up with. Now for any of you thinking we're rich and are therefore better placed to afford it, we are rich by many standards, but we certainly bring in well under 100,000 annually and support 5 people in the family. So 15% is alot, but it doesnt have to be that high. Be inspired, do the math, choose a cause.


innercitygarden said...

I find it's easiest to pick a cause & donate a regular amount, so for example, I donate to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre in Melbourne twice a year, Christmas and my sister's birthday (which is conveniently roughly halfway through the year, and she's died so I don't have to buy her a present anymore). I treat it like a bill that has to be budgeted for. It's easy. For Melbournians who prefer not to give cash, you can also give them a call and ask what food (or nappies, or toiletries) they're short of, buy it wherever you fancy and drop it in.

Then the next thing is to look for ways to buy stuff through charities rather than from a supermarket. Oxfam sell wine, for example, so we buy some of our wine by the box through them. Lots of our presents come from the Oxfam shop too. It's money I would have spent anyway, so it's not a hardship, but I can make sure it's directed well. Two birds with one stone and all that. The Asylum Seekers Resource Centre also run a catering service, so when it was my job at work to choose a caterer for a function, I got them to do it (and it was great).

Barbara said...

Cynic that I am, I'm deeply
suspicious of a lot of charities
(particularly after a my brother-
in-law, who's a business
professor, gave his students a
project of researching exactly
what well known Australian
charities were spending their
money on). You're right, doing
the math is essential - only
the ones doing the right things
deserve anyone's money.

Jen said...

Inspired? Yep, certainly I am. Do the maths? Good idea....I must admit my eyes glaze over when I look at our family budget, let alone our tax returns. We have a child in China that we sponsor, which is a start for us, but when I look at whats left after the mortgage, Im not so sure I could tithe much more than we do with our current expenditures. So your post has made us both think about what we do spend our money on, and challenge us to think about some better choices. There is a terrible inertia to changing these things when bound by the finacials requirements of a mortagage.

Kel said...

innercitygarden- thanks for your great comment. Treat it like a bill- thats exactly what we do- then its automatic and a no brainer. i love your suggestion about the catering- i will definitely investigate here to see whats possible.

Barbara- i used to sit in the sceptic ( nearly wrote septic lol) camp too, and rightly so, but there are good 'charities' out there so if you do your homework, its possible to do some good.

Jen - great you're inspired. We are soo fortunate, its almost criminal not to share.. good on you! innercitygardens tips might come in handy! said...

This is an excellent post. I am always amazed at how little people who have are willing to give, I have friends with 2 good incomes (around $170,00 Australian dollars a year) and yet won't even give $20 a month to charity.

I'm working towards 10%, am almost there and do hope to go further. Mine is split between sponsor children, health charities, emergency charities, homeless etc. I am so blessed and some people have nothing. That is the truth.