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Born to Shine: donation dilemmas

While I was watching the final of Born to Shine on Sunday night, my eyes flicked every now and again to the twitter feed on my phone.

Lots of people tweeted to say they’d donated – and there were lovely messages from the volunteers staffing the phones. But there were also more sceptical tweets here and there.

Why, why, why?

“Why would you bring a child into the world in such disgusting circumstances, not fair just for a few moments of pleasure?” asked one person after the film about Kroo Bay in Sierra Leone, while another said “They should send some condoms with that money they’ve collected”.

Another tweeter asked: “Where does the money actually go? Because people have raised money for years but still no progress.”

Well, my twitter finger was twitching, I can tell you, because I was desperate to reply, but these are complicated issues – hard to tackle in 140 characters.

Feeling the frustration (but doing it anyway)

I can absolutely relate to that frustration over donating again and again and not being sure of the difference it’s making.

But there has been progress. Since 1990 the number of children dying every year has fallen by four million. These are real children whose lives are being saved.

The reason we have to keep on giving is just because we’re scaling such a huge mountain. Think back to Make Poverty History. The famous faces, the click of their fingers, that devastating statistic – a child dies every three seconds. Well, now it’s every four seconds. That’s progress.

But while we steadily chip away at the still scandalously huge number of children dying, more are born all the time into desperate circumstances.

And that’s where things get more complicated. The rapid growth of the world’s population is absolutely an issue that gets too little public attention. It’s a major obstacle to being able to beat poverty once and for all.

No easy way out

But the answer is absolutely not to tell women they can’t have children because of where they live. It’s making where they live a better place for children.

It’s making sure they know about contraception and know they have a right to use it. It’s making sure they can get to a decent clinic.

It’s making sure that their babies are likely to live past the age of five – making sure they can get the vaccines they need and that there are enough health workers (midwives, doctors, nurses) to give them proper healthcare.

The things that work take time. Working with governments so they can save lives without relying on organisations like Save the Children forever; strengthening women’s rights and social status, and helping children (the parents of the future) get an education.

School’s out for some

Now there’ssomething we really take for granted – education. We may have harrumphed our way through those embarrassing lessons at school where the teacher talked about condoms (and, horror of horrors, maybe opened a few up and passed them around) but, depending on how brave our parents were (which is a whole other lottery), we’d be stuck without them.

People don’t choose to live in places like Kroo Bay. They live there because when you run out of money, you run out of choices.

Rightly or wrongly, when families are poor, the money working children bring in can mean the difference between surviving or not.

If children were less likely to die before they reached the age of five, their parents would likely have fewer babies. So, when you donate and help save lives, you may well be helping to curb population growth too.

In their shoes

It’s not easy to imagine yourself living the life of someone so far away, in what seems like another world. It’s not easy to accept that, just maybe, if you’d been born where they were born, you would have made the same decisions.

For every question like this – what were the parents thinking? What is the government doing? Whose fault is this? – there’s one response that is the always the same.

As Paul O’Grady said so simply in Sunday’s show: it’s not the children’s fault.

So if  you haven’t given yet, please donate now, because no matter how huge a task it seems to end poverty and save children from needless deaths, we have to keep trying.

Whats more if you donate before 30 September the government will keep matching every pound raised to help children overseas through Born to Shine.

If you need more convincing, have a look at our policy on population growth and lots of other policies that explain the way we work – because we really are finding better ways of saving lives all the time, and we’ll keep on finding them until children don’t need us any more.

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