Like all households we get a lot of mail shots pushed through the door; advertisements for carpet cleaning, conservatories and pleas for money from various charities. I am guilty of gathering it all up and shoving it in the recycling bin. I have no compunction about the conservatories but I’m sure that some of the charities deserve more attention.
This morning one caught my eye. As always it was by chance. The leaflet was in a corner of the kitchen, on top off the stack of papers waiting to be filed in the recycling bag. Drinking a cup of tea I saw a picture of a baby with the phrase “the first time she got sick, there was nothing I could do”. I turned the page and saw a little boy up to his knees in grey water surrounded by rotting rubbish. He was smiling and sailing a homemade boat. This was Kroo Bay in Sierra Leone and the leaflet told me that 1 in 4 children won’t make it to their fifth birthday. They die of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea because they go to the toilet in the river they must drink from. When the river floods, sewage pours into their homes. There is one clinic for 6000 people and they have to pay for every bit of their care, right down to the needles.
Drinking my tea in my waterproof house with electricity and three healthy children I suddenly felt very guilty. How could I look at those pictures, read those facts then put it in the recycling bin and carry on as if it didn’t matter?
The leaflet was from Save the Children. I usually avoid giving to large charities because I fear my small donation will get lost in administration. I feel helpless, an individual against such a huge problem, and tell myself what I send won’t make much difference or solve the situation so what’s the point. But this time I feel compelled to help, thinking that surely the result of lots of little bits of help has to be change.
This mail shot caught me at a vulnerable moment and made me remember the miserable conditions so many people live in. What can we do? Be aware? Donate if we can? Appreciate what we have and ensure we don’t waste the resources, like food, that we have. Living in Kyrgyzstan taught me what an incredible standard of living most of us have in the UK and to never take things like the NHS for granted, however imperfect we might sometimes consider it to be.
I know there will always be inequality but I’m not sure I feel happy carrying on in my comfortable life knowing the extent of the gulf between my children and the children in Sierra Leone.
Earlier this year Save the Children launched a global campaign to help children in Kroo Bay. The leaflet was asking for £3 a month but on-line there are innovative ways to encourage us to help, such as sending texts to make small specific contributions. The cynical part of me has to wonder how they can administratively ensure their promise that if I text “NET” to a certain number they “will deliver a mosquito net straight to a child at risk of catching malaria”. But today I’m of the attitude that if we don’t try, things will never change.