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Ethical giving September 25, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Culture, Goodness, Home and away, Money, Namibia, VSO.
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Earlier this year, my old housemate Matthias went home for his father’s 60th birthday. It sounded like they had quite a party, but with a warming message: instead of receiving any presents, Matthias’ father would rather accept money to donate to worthy causes that Matthias knew of in Namibia. Together they raised over 3000 Euros, a hefty amount by any standards.

EUR 2000 of this collection was donated to the Bernhard Nordkamp Centre, a centre in the Windhoek township of Katatura for orphans and vulnerable children, sponsored by the Catholic AIDS Action. This centre is run by a passionate American lady who organises activities for these kids, such as all-day football tournaments and trips to the swimming pool. Over 150 kids hang out at this centre and attend the activities, many from broken homes with little stability in their lives. The centre has strict rules on behaviour, punctuality and discipline, offering the children guidance on what is and is not acceptable social behaviour, which many of them do not receive at home. The money will be used  for the everyday running of the centre – food rations for the kids, learning materials and the football programme. They will also use some of the money to buy basic food stuff for less fortunate smaller shelters in Katutura (“memes”), and therefore sharing the love throughout the community.

Matthias presenting the money at the Bernhard Nordkamp Shelter

 

And you can see, that through the instigation of one man, a community gathered together what they didn’t need to provide to others what they did. The decision that material gifts were not needed and that the resources could be spent elsewhere has touched the lives of many people here in Namibia, through the research and contacts of my old housemate, Matthias. I think this is something that we can all aspire towards, which is why I am writing about it.

The remaining money will help towards a selection of other projects in Namibia. N$3000 has gone to a fellow VSO volunteer, Sue, who works in a school Katima Mulilo, right up at the end of the Caprivi Strip on the borer with Zambia. The rest of the money will be used to pay for the board and school fees of two disadvantaged children, to buy materials for a pre-school in the northern town of Rundu and to help fund the annual VSO Orphans and Vulnerable Children Fun Day.

And you can see, that through the instigation of one man, a community gathered together what they didn’t need to provide to others what they did. The decision that material gifts were not needed and that the resources could be spent elsewhere has touched the lives of many people here in Namibia, through the research and contacts of my old housemate, Matthias. I think this is something that we can all aspire towards, which is why I am writing about it.

Matthias hanging out at the Bernhard Nordkamp Shelter in Katatura

 

In our current Western climate of conspicuous consumption and the vacuous act of buying-for-the-sake-of-buying, it is refreshing to hear stories like this. How many of us fret over what to buy a person for a birthday or for Christmas? How much is spent each year on things that we don’t really need or want? How many gifts lie in cupboards unused, still in their packaging?

 There has however been a rise in Ethical Giving in recent years, originally starting with Charity Christmas cards, which donates to a particular charity each time you buy a pack of cards. Now there are many websites, many through charities, where you can buy a goat for a family in Zambia or a chicken coup for a single mother in India on behalf of another person. You can buy an acre of rainforest in the Amazon, to protect against deforestation and the extinction of endangered species (maybe a good way to off-set the carbon from any long-haul flying you have done this year). You name it, you can buy it, from school books to newborn baby care packages, from deworming pills for children to mango saplings. Last Christmas, my brothers all “received” goats and chickens from my parents, as well as a bottle of Peace Oil, an olive oil that was produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin working together, all through the Good Gifts Catalogue. 

So you don’t get anything to unwrap on the special day – big deal. Do you really need that new album or the latest shoes? It is a matter of want versus need. When others need shelter, health care, an education or a way to make a living, things that we just take for granted, then I would certainly be willing to forego getting the Season 3 box set of Grey’s Anatomy or a new scarf.

With Christmas coming up, think: does this person really need a material gift, or would they equally appreciate an ethical gift instead?

Also check out Oxfam Unwrapped, Save the Children and Plan UK, as well as many others through web browsers for more ideas and information.

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