We tend to think as charities as being good causes to whom we should give our money (and our thanks) for doing things we don’t have the freedom to do. It is charities who step into the breach when there is a humanitarian crisis. It is charities who deliver meals to the old and infirm. You get the idea.
But the modern charity is no longer beyond reproach in the way it was in the past. Now charities go out of their way to tell us 99 cents on the $1 goes to the work of the charity and to make sure they are squeaky clean.
With a thing called charity fatigue, we often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who would like a share of our income.
But charities do some much more than we think
Charities can affect the political position
In the past Charities were afraid to take a stance on a political issue. They still tread lightly for fear of offending donors on one side and for fear of offending the administrations in the countries where they are working on the other.
But nevertheless, many charities have upended their stance on the political and will now take a position on an issue.
With the backing of the big ones such as the Red Cross, or Medecins san Frontiers there is a political agenda which can be pursued. Whatever else these big charities will carry the messages out.
We forget that Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign are charities because we see them more like political pressure groups. But charities they are. This does mean there is an agenda; Amnesty is very clear their mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
It is a job no government can do for obvious political reasons and it is also a job the United Nations cannot do because of their own mission in the world.
Amnesty, therefore, stands as a watchdog on my behalf as an individual watching big brother as it were. For the families of many who have been disappeared (and yes that is the verb), Amnesty is their first call.
Charities are agents for change
It is often a charity which provides the education which makes for a long-term change. Education of a local population no matter where, is one of the most fundamental requirements for change. Each country needs its own doctors and lawyers, surgeons and educated politicians. Teaching a country’s own youth how to become the next generation is the best gift.
Charities are therefore essential
Charities sit in a unique position between government and people, between a regime and the world and even between the ways in which we harm our own world. Let them ask for our help.