When I was doing my undergraduate degree, I got a name for myself in some circles of friends as the one involved in community action, the one who ‘cares about the world’ or ‘karma collector’, to reproduce some interesting terms used by friends and acquaintances. In most of my current circles of friends I’m hardly the most involved or most dedicated to social causes. In the former circles, my contribution was the long rants and discussions and information sharing about social justice issues, or pointing out ways in which we participate in injustice without realising it. I know my nagging nature inspired/harassed some of my otherwise disinterested friends to take action on their own or help me in my causes. They inspire me to continue believing in the ability of all of us to be more responsible, be more conscious, take more action, refuse to collaborate in injustice, and so on. However, the process of convincing others, continued apathy, and my own identity in these circles of friends made me wonder what it really takes to get people motivated to take action for community.
It was this that motivated me to post this message asking my cyber networks of friends to take action on social causes instead of simply wishing me well or giving me material gifts on my birthday. I wanted to find out three major things. Firstly, what motivates people to take action, think deeply, or be touched by an issue? Secondly, I wanted to see the variety of issues that affected people I knew. Finally, I wanted to know what kind of action people took. Of course, I also wanted to test how many people simply thought ‘what a wonderful idea’ vs. how many actually followed through with it 🙂
Before I list the variety of things that resulted from this, I have to pause and thank Ann Thresher. On one of my birthdays, she gave me a duck. No really. It was the sponsorship of a duck to a farming family for livelihood purposes. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received and it made a lasting impression on me, giving me the idea for this birthday wish of gifting me forward. Thanks Other A!
Here is a list of causes by theme and corresponding location that people talked to me about. A total of twelve people responded.
- 5 people shared information about the actual issue.
- 8 people donated money to the cause
- 4 people have a sustained, non-fiscal involvement with the cause
- 3 people are recurrent donors
As for the reasons people donate, they are written below with the list of causes:
Violence against Women: Forster, Australia and Oxfam, USA
- The person vacations in Forster
- Continued chats about women’s rights issues with me.
- She shared this infographic about gender equality in Australia.
Sexual and Reproductive Health: Planned Parenthood (US)
- Friends of the person have been helped a lot by PP
- The political vulnerability, both in the country being escaped from and into, and lack of reliable refugee support entities motivated one person to support refugee rights.
Animal Rescue: Noumea, New Caledonia and Sydney, Australia
- Person’s love of animals. Their experience volunteering in one place has made them want to continue this as a lifestyle in the future.
Homelessness: Montpellier, France
- Daily sadness of seeing homeless people. Most direct way of helping using the limited means the person has.
Single mothers: Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Children with Cancer: Maharagama, Sri Lanka
Poor families in Sri Lanka: Colombo, Sri Lanka
- The person spent his entire savings on these donations. The act of donating was his own action, unrelated to the birthday request, though he shared what he had done recently with me as part of his wishes for me.
- The National Cancer Hospital in Maharagama has a website here
Autism: Toronto, Canada and worldwide
- A member of the person’s family has autism and she spoke about how good it was to see the increased information available about it.
Prison Children: Welikada, Sri Lanka
- This person donates to a cause that works to keep the children of prisoners out of the vicious cycle of crime. He described, interestingly, that the movement was entirely women-led. Check out Friends of Prisoners Children here
The Movement: Sri Lanka
- A friend’s charity action, using his and his colleagues talents as publicity and marketing people to bring attention to worthy causes in Sri Lanka. Check out The Movement here
Racism and prejudice: Israel
- This person, who teaches philosophy in Israel, dedicated her next lesson to teaching South Asian philosophy, which was also the wish of her students. She teaches international sources and philosophical traditions to open her students minds to cultures around the world as her contribution to breaking down racial and cultural prejudices.
Class prejudice: India
- Person shared how childhood memory shaped his everyday attitudes.
Indigenous deaths in custody: Australia
- As part of main job, person did some work for CNS, “a 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody.” Motivated him to remain supporting them, especially when it was threatened to have its funding stopped. Check out CNS here
Sporting charities: Australia
- Person’s circle of friends have bets on games and the loser donates to a charity of the winner’s choice. He came across an initiative to recycle soccer boots towards underprivileged kids in Australia. His childhood memories of not being able to afford adequate equipment hits home about this charity. Check out boots for all here
- “If we don’t look after it, we won’t be alive and fit and happy enough to even bother fighting about all the other important things.“
- Person had also joined a politically active environmentalist group
Union action and University (person’s alma mater): Australia
- “Because it’s so useful and crucial”. Support them here
- Perhaps it’s not a cause but we lose sight of being there for those around us when we overshoot to some larger cause 🙂 This person has a transnational family and makes a concerted effort to be close and value her family members.
So all in all it was a pretty cool day. I’m probably going to try this again same time next year. Here’s to hoping the responses grow! Thank you all for your birthday wishes. Means a lot to me that people took time to respond and engage. Keep inspiring and believing 🙂