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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Social Action Learning: Touching the Hand of Those in Need



I wrote this in India after visiting the Akanksha schools that are working with children in Mumbai's slums doing more with tiny notebooks and paper than I could ever dream. My view of volunteerism and donating completely changed. Here was my response.




Flat Cat

                                                             I've 
                                                            seen 
                                                          enough 
                                                         pictures 
                                                       of starving
                                                  kids in Africa with
                                    distended bellies asking for my money.
 I suspect most of the money goes to that fat dude on the private jet in the coat and tie who
                                                 flies in once a month
                                                 to grease palms and 
                                                    bring some rice, 
                                                his distended pockets
                                                      full of the cash 
                                                         that was to 
                                                           fill empty
                                                             bellies.
                                      I only emptied my pocket and filled his.


My pockets                                                                                                                  empty -

their bellies are                                                                                                              empty too.

What good                                                                                                                    did we do?





Fed up --- (what an ironic statement)



I'm going flat.  Linking Directly.  Peering through my camera's glass into their glass.
Transparency. Flattening. Is my money really getting there?  Are they really getting
              what they need? Are the people responsible good and faithful?
                                                I cannot see all.
                                                     I am not
                                                  omnipotent
                                                         but
                                                I can do better.
                                             I can connect anew --
                                                       to see --
                                                       to do.
                                              I can know names,
                                                    see faces.
                                              Cut out the fat cat.
                                                     Go flat.
I can remove barriers that are erected in my mind and go places that leave my stereotypes behind.
                  Every place, any corner, I cannot go, but I can help people who I know.
              And that, my friends, is my view. To be. To Do. To fill my life and theirs too.




And that, my friends is the grail of connecting with those who you help through social action learning projects in schools and beyond. People who donate don't just want to give their money, they want to engage.  Perhaps it is very fitting that the winner of this year's NetGenEd project created a video about mobile phone donating.  With the people of Haiti still living in the streets - we can give our money but if the money we give is to ineffective, corrupt organizations -- what on earth have we done?  (Kind of fitting that my dear friend Beth Kanter has a book coming out this month on this very topic -- The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change comes out on the twenty first. I wish her all the best and appreciate what she has taught me about non profits and social media. And in light of the situation in Haiti on the streets - it is high time to use these tools for some accountability when we give our money.)


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